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ijraconsffrlTi l^tiitton 

Volume Sevkn 

iwo Hundred and tijty -npUi of the Beaconsfield 
Edition of Edmund Burke's Works have been 
printed for Canada, of which this is No 

\\ i 

Thf R:^ht Himumhie Chari,-. -yam,.. Fax, M.P, 

From ., ,„,;„;,.. ;,. Karl Ant™ Hi.k..|, .. rh,- N.t.on.,! fVrt.a.t Cll-r 

Ct- I 



"» / 1 111? ' 






The Writings Sf Speeches of 




TORONTO • (il'OlU. F. N, M')KAN(; 
Cr CCMl'AN'Y, Linniea • MDCCCCI 



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Fkaohemtii Ain) Notsb of Spbkchks ih Pakuambht. 
Speech om thb Acts of Unifokmitt, February 6, 1778 


DiBBENTEBB, "ilarch 17, 17''3 

Speech on a Moiroit fob Leave to being m a Bill 


Rblioiodb Opimohb, upon the Occasion of a Peti- 
tion OF THE Ositabiak Societt, May 11, 1792 
Speech bklatitm to thb Middlesex Election, Feb- 
ruary 7, 1'71 

Speech on a Bill fob bhobtenino the Dcbation or 

Pabliamentb, May 8, 1780 

Speech on a Motiow fob a Committee to inquibb 
into the State of the Kepbebentation of the 
Commons in Pabliambnt, May 7, 1782 . 
Speech on a Motion fof Leavb to bbino in a Bill 
fob explaining the Powebs of Jcbies in Prose- 
CDTiONS fob Libels, March 7, 1771. Tooethbb with 
A Lbttkb in Vindication of that Mbasvbe, and a 

Copt of the propobsd Bill 

Speech on a Bill fob the Repeal of the Mabriaob 

Act, June 15, 1781 »29 

Speech jn a Motion for Leavb to bbino in a Bill 
to quiet the Possessions of the Subject aoainbi 
Dormant Claims of the Church, Fcbrfary 17, 1773 137 








HWTII FOB A!C 2»SAT OW TH« DhAHA . . . .148 

Am Emat towakds ah Abbidomxkt Of thb Ekouu 
HinoiT. In Thbbi Books. 


Chap. L Causes of the Connection between the Bomani and 

Britons.— Ccaar's two Invasions of Britain . 159 

n. Somo Acconnt of the Ancient InhabitanU of Britain 170 

ni. The Sednction of Britain by the Romans . .189 

IV. The Fall of the Roman Power in Britain . . 214 

BOOK tl. 
Chap. L The En»ry and Settlement of the Saxons, and their 

Conversion to Christianity M7 

n. Establishment of Christianity— of Monastic Institn- 

tions — and of their Efl^ts .... 240 
UL Series of Anglo-Saxon Kings fVom Ethelbert to AI. 

fred : with the Invasion of the Danes . . . 255 

IV. Reign of ICing Alfred 261 

V. Snccession of Kings from Alfred to Harold . . 269 
VI. Harold II. — Invasion of the Normans. — Acconnt of 
that People, and of the State of England at the 

Time of the Invasion 280 

VIL Of the Laws and Institutions of the Saxons . . 291 

^AP. I. View of the State of Europe at the Time of the 

Norman Invasion 327 

n. Reii;n of William the Conqueror .... 335 

III. Reign of William the Second, surnamed Rufus . . 364 

IV. Reign of Henry 1 375 

V. Reign of Stephen 336 

VI. Reign of Henry II 394 

VII. Reign of Richard 1 425 

VIII Reign of John 437 

IX. Fragment. — An Essay towards an ffistory of the 

Laws of England 475 

4,%- i 



The Right Honourable Charles James Fox, M.P. Frontispiece 

From ■ ptinting by Karl Anton Hickel, in the H*tion>l Por- 
trait Qallery. 

Bust of Edmund Burke Engraved Title 

By I. Hlckey. 
William Mum' , First Earl of Mansfield, K.T. . Page 126 

From aplcture piklnted in 1783 by John Singleton Ci'i 1' y. B.A. 

Sir Matthew Hale "476 

From a picture in the National Portrait Gallery by an un- 
known painter. 










FXBIIUAKY 6, 177a. 




1'he following Speech was occasioned by a petition to the 
House of Commons from certain clergymen of the Church of 
England, and certain of the two professions of Civil Law and 
Physic, and others, praying to be relieved from subscription to 
the Thirty-Nine Articles, as required by the Acts of Uniformity. 
The persons associated for this purpose were distinfjuishcd at the 
time by the name of " The Feathers Tavern Association," from 
the place where their meetings were usually held. Their pe- 
tition was presented on the 6th of February, 1772 ; and on a 
motion that it should be brought up, the same was negatived on 
a division, in which Mr. Burke voted in the majority, by 217 
against 71. 



MR. SPEAKER,— I should not trouble the House 
upon this question, if I could at all acquiesce 
in many of the arguments, or justify the vote I shall 
give upon several of the reasons which have been 
urged in favor of it. I should, indeed, be very muclj 
concerned, if I were thought to be influenced to 
that vote by those arguments. 

In particular, I do most exceedingly condemn all 
such arguments as involve any kind of reflection on 
the personal character of the gentlemen who have 
brought in a petition so decent in the style of it, and 
so constitutional in the mode. Besides the unim- 
peachable integrity and piety of many of the pro- 
moters of this petition, which render those aspersions 
as idle as they are unjust, such a way of treating the 
subject can have no other eScct than to turn the 
attention of the House from the merits of the peti- 
tion, the only thing properly before us, and which 
we are sufficiently competent to decide upon, to the 
motives of the petitioners, which belong exclusively 
to the Great Searcher of Hearts. 

We all know that those who loll at their ease in 
high dignities, whether of the Church or of the State, 
are commonly averse to all reformation. It is hard 
to persuade them tliat there can be anything amiss in 
establishments which by feeling experience they find 
to be so very comfortable. It is as true, that, from 






the same selfish motives, those who are struggling up- 
wards are apt to find everything wrong and out of 
order. Tliose are truths upon one side and on the 
other ; and neitlier on the one side or the other in 
argument are they worth a single farthing. I wish, 
therefore, so much had not been said upon these ill- 
chosen, and worse than ill-chosen, these very invid- 
ious topics. 

I wisli still more that the dissensions and animosi- 
ties which had slept for a century had not been just 
now most unseasonably revived. But if we must be 
driven, whetlier we will or not, to recollect these 
uiihappy transactions, let our memory be complete 
and equitable, let us recollect the whole of them to- 
gether. If the Dissenters, as an honorable gentle- 
man has described them, have formerly risen from a 
"whining, canting, snivelling generation," to be a 
body dreadful and ruinous to all our establishments, 
let him call to mind the follies, the violences, the 
outrages, and persecutions, that conjured up, very 
blamably, but very naturally, tliat same spirit of retal- 
iation. Let him recollect, along with the injuries, the 
services which Dissenters have done to our Church 
and to our State. If they have once destroyed, more 
tlian once they have saved them. Tliis is but com- 
mon justice, which they and all mankind have a right 

There are, Mr. Speaker, l)esidcs these prejudices 
and animosities, which I would have wholly removed 
from the >bate, things more regularly and argu- 
mentatively -gcd against tlie petition, wliich, how- 
ever, do not at all appear to me conclusive. 

First, two honorable gentlemen, one near me, tlie 
other, I think, on the other side of the House, asseit. 



that, if you alter her symbols, you destroy the being 
of the Church of England. This, for the sake of the 
liberty of that Church, I must absolutely deny. The 
Church, like every body corporate, may alter her 
laws without changing hor identity. As an independ- 
ent church, professing fallibility, she has claimed 
a right of acting without the consent of any other ; 
as a church, she claims, and has always exercised, a 
right of reforming whatever appeared amiss in her 
doctrine, her discipline, or her rites. She did so, 
when she shook off the Papal supremacy in the reign 
of Henry the Eighth, which was an act of the body 
of the English Church, as well as of the State (I 
don't inquire how obtained). She did so, when she 
twice changed the Liturgy in the reign of King Ed- 
ward, when she then established Articles, which were 
themselves a variation from former professions. She 
did so, when she cut off three articles from her origi- 
nal forty-two, and reduced them to the present thirty- 
nine ; and she certainly would not lose her corpo- 
rate identity, nor subvert her fundamental principles, 
though she were to leave ten of the thirty-nine which 
remain out of any future confession of her faith. She 
would limit her corporate powers, on the contrary, 
and she would oppose her fundamental principles, if 
she were to deny herself the prudential exercise of 
each capacity of reformation. This, therefore, can be 
no objection to your receiving the petition. 

In the next place, Sir, I am clear, that the Act of 
Union, reciting and ratifying one Scotch and one Eng- 
lish act of Parliament, has not rendered any change 
'diatsocver in our Church impossible, but by a disso- 
lution of the union between the two kingdoms. 
The honorable gentleman who has last touched 






upo!! that point has not gone quite so far as the gen- 
tlemen who first insisted upon it. However, as none 
of them wholly abandon that post, it will not be safe 
to leave it behind me unattacked, I believe no one 
will wish tlieir interpretation of that act to be con- 
sidered as authentic. What shall we think of the 
wisdom (to say nothing of the competence) of that 
legislature which should ordain to itself such a funda- 
mental law, at its outset, as to disable itself from ex- 
ecuting its own functions, — which should prevent it 
fi m making any further laws, however wanted, and 
that, too, on the most interesting subject tliat belongs 
to human society, and where she most frequt itly 
wants its interposition, — which should fix tho^ i- 
damental laws that are forever to prevent i a 

adapting itself to its opinions, h wuver clear, . to 
its own necessities, however urgent? Such an act, 
Mr. Speaker, would forever put the Church out of its 
own power; it certainly would put it far above the 
State, and erect it into that species of independency 
which it has been the great principle of our policy to 

The act never meant, I am sure, any such unnat- 
ural restraint on the joint legislature it was then form- 
ing. History sh'^^s us what it meant, and all tliat it 
could niiian wi degree of common sense. 

In the reigi .harlcs tho F ; • a violent and ill- 

considered attempt was made unjustly to estrblish 
the platform of the government and the rites of the 
Church of England in Scotland, contrary to the gen- 
ius^ and desires of far the majority of that -lation. 
This usurpation excited a most mutinous spirit in 
that country. It produced that shocking fanatical 
Covenant (I mean the Covenant of '36) for forcing 



their ideas of religion on England, and indeed on all 
mankind. Tliis became the occasion, at length, of 
other covenants, and of a Scotch army marching into 
England to fulfil them ; and the Parliament of Eng- 
land (for its own purposes) adopted their scheme, 
tock their last covenant, and destroyed the Church of 
England. The Parliament, in their ordinance of 1643, 
expressly assign their desire of conforming to the 
Church of Scotland as a motive for their alteration. 

To prevent such violent enterprises on the one side 
or on the other, since each Church was going to be dis- 
armed of a legislature wholly and peculiarly affected 
to it, and lest this new uniformity in the State should 
be u»'^''d as a reason and ground of ecclesiastical uni- 
formity, the Act of Union provided that presbytery 
should continue the Scotch, as episcopacy the Eng- 
lish establishment, and that this separate and mutu- 
ally independent Church-government was to be con- 
sidered as a part of the Union, without aiming at 
putting the regulation within each Church out of its 
own power, without putting both Churches out of the 
power of the State. It could not mean to forbid us 
to set anything ecclesiastical in order, but at the ex- 
pense of tearing up all foundations, and forfeiting the 
inestimable benefits (for inestimable they are) wliich 
we derive from the happy union of the two kingdoms. 
To suppose otherwise it to suppose that the act in- 
tended we could not meddle at all with tlio Church, 
but we must as a preliminary destroy the State. 

Well, then. Sir, this is, I hope, satisfactory. Tlie 
A ;; of Union docs not stand in our way. But, Sir, 
gentlemen think we are not competent to the refor- 
mation desired, chiefly from our vant of theological 
learning. If we were the legal assembly .... 



I • If 




If ever there was anything to which, from reason, 
nature, liabit, and principle, 1 am totally averse, it is 
persecution for conscientious difference in opinion. 
If these gentlemen complained justly of any compul- 
sion upon them on that article, I would hardly wait 
for their petitions; as soon as I knew the evil, I 
would haste to the cure; I would even run before 
their complaints. 

I will not enter into the abstract merits of our Ar- 
ticles and Liturgy. Perhaps there are some things 
in them which one would wish had not been there. 
They are not without the marks and characters of 
human frailty. 

But it is not human frailty and imperfection, and 
even a considerable degree of them, that becomes a 
ground for your alteration ; for by no alteration will 
you get rid of those errors, however you may delight 
yourselves in varying to infinity the fashion of them. 
But tlie ground for a legif'ative alteration of a legal 
establishment is this, and this only, — that you find 
the inclinations of the majority of the people, concur- 
ring with your own sense of the intolerable nature of 
the abuse, are in favor of a change. 

If this be the case in the present instance, certainly 
you ought to make the alteration that is proposed, to 
sat-'sfy your own consciences, and to give content to 
your people. But if you have no evidence of tliis 
nature, it ill becomes your gravity, on the petition 
of a few gentlemen, to listen to anything that tends 
to shake one of the capital pillars of the state, and 
alarm the body of your people upon that one ground, 
in which every hope and fear, every interest, passion, 
prejudice, everything which can affect the human 
breast, are all involved together. If you make this 







a season for religious alterations, depend upon it, you 
will soon find it a season of religious tumults and re- 
ligious wars. 

These gentlemen complain of hardship. No con- 
siderable number shows discontent ; but, in order to 
give satisfaction to any number of respectable men, 
who come in so decent and constitutional a mode bo- 
fore us, let us examine a little what that hardship is. 
They -vant to be preferred clergymen in the CInirch 
of England as by law established ; but their con- 
sciences will not suffer them to «■ .iiform to the doc- 
trines and practices of that Church: that is, they 
want to be teachers in a church to which they do not 
belong; and it is an odd sort of hardship. They want 
to receive the emolument ^ appropriated for teaching 
one set of doctrines, wliilst they are teaching another. 
A church, in any legal sense, is only a certain system 
of religious doctrines and practices fixed and ascer- 
tained by some law, — by the difference of which law.'- 
different cluirchcs (as different commonwedths) are 
made in various parts of the world ; and the establisli- 
ment is a tax laid by the same sovereign authority for 
payment of those who so teach and so practise : for 
no legislature was ever so absurd as to tax its people 
to support men for teaching and acting as they please, 
but by some prescribed rule. 

The hardsliip amounts to this, — that the people of 
England are not taxed two shillings in the pound to 
pay them for teaching, as divine truths, their own par- 
ticular fancies. For the state has so taxed the peo- 
ple ; and by way of relieving these gentlemen, it 
would 1)0 a cruel hardsliip on tlie people to be com- 
pelled to ; my. from the sweat of tb'^ir brow, the most 
lieavy of all taxes to men, to condemn as heretical 









. I 

'I ri 

the doctrines which they repute to be orthodox, and 
to reprobate as superstitious the practices which they 
use as pious and holy. If a man leaves by will au 
establishment for preaching, such as Boyle's Lectures, 
or for charity sermons, or funeral sermons, shall any 
one complain c*" an hardship, because he has au ex- 
cellent sermon upon matrimony, or on the martyr- 
dom of King Charles, or on the Restoration, which I, 
the trustee of the cstauhshment, will not pay him 
for preaching?— S. Jcnyns, Origin of Evil. —Such is 
the hardship which thoy complain of under the pres- 
ent Church, establi. hmoiit, that they have not the pow- 
er of taxing the people of England for the mainte- 
nance of their private opinions. 

Tlie laws of toleration provide for every real griev- 
ance that these gentlemen can rationally complain of. 
Are they hindered from professing their belief of what 
they think to be truth ? If they do not like the 
Establishment, there are an hundred different modes 
of Dissent in which they may teach. But even if 
they are so unfortunately circumstanced that of all 
that variety none will please them, they have free 
liberty to assemble a congregation of their own ; and 
if any persons think their fancies (they may be bril- 
liant imaginatio.i?) worth paying for, they are at lib- 
erty to maintain them as tlieir clergy : nothing hin- 
ders it. But if they cannot get an hundred people 
together who will pay for their reading a liturgy after 
their form, witli what face can they insist upon the 
nation's conforming to their ideas, for no other visi- 
ble purpose than the enabling them to receive with a 
good conscience the tenth part of the produce of vour 
lands ? ^ 

Tliercfore, beforehand, the Constitution has thought 




proper to take a security that the tax raised on the 
people shall be applied only to those who profess such 
doctrines and follow such a mode of worship as the 
legislature, representing the people, has thought most 
agreeable to their general sense, — binding, as usual, 
the minority, not to an assent to the doctrines, but to 
a payment of the tax. 

But how do you ease and relieve ? How do you 
know, that, in making a new door into the Church 
for these gentlemen, you do not drive ten times their 
number out of it ? Supposing the contents and not- 
contcnts strictly equal in numbers and consequence, 
the possession, to avoid disturbance, ought to carry it. 
You displease all the clergy of England now actually 
in office, for the chance of obliging a score or two, per- 
haps, of gentlemen, who are, or want to be, beneficed 
clergymen : and do you oblige ? Alter your Liturgy, 
— will it please all even of those who wish an altera- 
tion? will they agree in what ought to be altered? 
And after it is altered to the mind of every one, you 
are no further advanced than if you had not taV-^n a 
single step ; because a large body of men wil^ 3n 
say you ought to have no liturgy at all: and then 
these men, who now complain so bitterly that they 
are shut out, will themselves bar the door against 
thousands of others. Dissent, not satisfied with tol- 
eration, is not conscience, but ambition. 

You altered the Liturgy for the Directory. This 
was settled by a set of most learned divines and 
learned laymen: Selden sat amongst them. Did 
this please? It was considered upon both sides as 
a most unchristian imposition. "Well, at the Resto- 
ration they rejected the Directory, and reformed the 
Common Prayer, — which, by the way, had been three 








times roforined bolore. Were they then coutentod ? 
Two thousand (or some great number) of clergy re- 
eiguod their livings in one day rather than read it : 
and truly, rather than raise that second idol, I should 
i(iav««idhercd to the Directory, as I now adhere to 
tlio Common Prayer. Nor can you content other 
men's conscience, real or pretended, by any conces- 
sions : follow your own ; seek peace and ensue it. 
You have no symptoms of discontent in the people 
to their Establisiiment. The churches are too small 
for their congregations. The livings are too few for 
their candidates. The spirit of religious controversy 
has slackened by the nature of thuigs : by act you 
may revive it. I will not enter into the question, 
how much truth is preferable to peace. Perhaps 
truth may be far better. But as we have scarcely 
over the same certainty in the one that we have in 
the other, Z would, unless the truth were evident in- 
deed, hold .ast to peace, which has in her company 
charity, the highest of the virtues. 

This businoss appears in two points of view : 1st, 
Whether it is a matter of grievance ; 2nd, Whether 
it is within our province to redreto it with propriety 
and prudence. Whether it comes properly before us 
on a petition upon matter of grievance 1 would not 
inquire tco curiously. I know, technically speaking, 
tliat notuing a<^' ible to law can be considered as a 
grievance. Bui an over-attention to the rules of any 
act does sometimes defeat the ends of it ; and I tliink 
it does so in this Parliamentary act, as much at least 
as in any other. I know many gentlemen think that 
the very essence of liberty consists in being gov- 
erned according to law, as if grievances had nothing 
real and intrinsic ; but I cannot be of that opinion. 

! 1 



Grievauces may subsist hy law. Nay, I do not know 
whether an; grievance can bo considered as hitulera- 
ble, until it is established and sanctifiod by law. If 
the Act of Toleration were not perfect, if there were 
a complaint of it, I would gladly consent to amend 
it. But when I heard a complaint of a pressure on 
religious liberty, to my astonislimcnt I find that there 
was no complaint whatsoever of tlie insufficiency of 
the act of King William, nor any attempt to malco it 
more sufficient. The matter, therefore, does not con- 
cern toleration, but establishment ; and it is not the 
rights of private conscience that are in question, but 
the propriety of the terms which are proposed by law 
as a title to public emoluments : so that the com- 
plaint is not, that there is not toleration of diversity 
ui opinion, but that diversity in ophiion is not re- 
warded by bishoprics, rectories, and collegiate stalls. 
When gentlemen complain of the subscription as 
matter of grievance, the complaint arises from con- 
founding private judgment, whose rights are anterior 
to law, and the qualifications which the law creates 
for its own magistracies, whether civil or religious. 
To take away from m ,.i their lives, Jieir liberty, or 
their property, those things for the protection of 
which society was introduced, is great hardship and 
intolerable tyranny ; but to annex any condition you 
please to benefits artificially created is the most just, 
natural, and proper thing in the world. When e novo 
you form an arbitrary benefit, an advantage, preemi- 
nence, or emolument, not by Nature, but institution, 
you order and modify it with all the power of a cre- 
ator over his creature. Such beneiics of institution 
are royalty, nobility, priesthood, all of which ypu 
may limit to birth : you might prescribe even shape 












and stature. The Jewisli priesthood was lioroditary. 
Founders' kinsmen have a preference in tlie election 
of fellows in many colleges of our universities : the 
qualifications at All Souls are, tiiat tliejr should be 
optima nati, bene veititi, mediocriter docti. 

By contending for liljcrty in the candidate for or- 
ders, you take away tlio liberty of the elector, wiiich 
is tlie people, that is, tlio state. If they can clioose, 
they may assign a reason for thvir choice ; if they 
can assign a reason, they may do it in wntmg, and 
prescribe it as a condition ; they may transfer their 
authority to their representatives, and enable tiiem 
to exercise the same. In all human institutions, a 
gr'-at part, almost all regulations, are made from the 
mere necessity of the case, let the tli jretical merits 
of tlio question be what they will. For nothing hap- 
pened at the Reformation but what will happen in 
all such revoiuiions. Wlien tyranny is extreme, and 
abuses of government intolerable, men resort to the 
rights of Nature to shake it off. When they iiave 
done so, the very same jirinciplo of necessity of hu- 
man affairs to establish some other authority, which 
shall preserve the order of this new institution, must 
be obeyed, until they grow intolerable; and you shall 
not be suffered to plead original liberty against such 
an institution. See Holland, Switzerland. 

If you will have religion publicly practised and 
publicly taught, you must have a power to say what 
that religion will be which you will protect and en- 
courage, and to distinguish it by such marks and 
characteristics as you in your wisdom shall think fit. 
As I said before, your determination may be unwise 
in this as in other matters ; but it cannot be un- 
just, hard, or oppressive, or contrary to the liberty of 

4-i- «^ 



any man, or in the least degree exceeding your prov- 
ince. It is, therefore, aa a grievance, fairly none at 
all, — nothing but what iu essen^.iul, not only to the 
order, lut to the liberty, of the whole community. 

The petitioners are so sensible uf the force of tliese 
arguments, that they do admit of one subscription, — 
tliat is, to the Scripture. I shall not consider huw 
forcibly this argument militates with their whulo 
principle against subscription as an usurpation on 
the rights of Providence : I content myself with 
submitting to the consideration of the House, that, 
if that rule were once established, it must have some 
authority to enforce the obedience ; because, you well 
know, a law without a sanction will be vn'iculous. 
Somebody must sit in judgment on his conformity ; 
he must judge on the charge ; if he judges, he must 
ordain execution. Tnese things are necessary con- 
sequences one of the other; and then this judgment 
is aix equal and a superior violation of private judg- 
ment; the right of private judgment is violated in 
a much greater degree than it can be by any previous 
subscription. You come round again to subscription, 
as the best and easiest method ; men must judge of 
his doctrine, and judge definitively : so that either his 
test is nugatory, or men must first or last prescribe 
his public interpretation of it. 

If the Churcli be, as Mr. Locke defines it, a volun- 
tary i^ociety, Ac, then it is essential to this voluntary 
socieiv to exclude from her voluntary society any 
member she thinks fit, or to oppose the entrance of 
any upon such conditions as she thinks proper. For, 
otherwise, it would be a voluntary society acting con- 
trary to her will, which is a contradiction in terms. 
And thi> is Mr. Locke's opinion, the advocate for the 

VOL. Til. S 














largest scheme of ecclesiastical and civil toleration to 
Protestants (for to Papists he allows no toleration at 

They dispute only the extent of the subscription ; 
they therefore tacitly admit the equity of tlie princi- 
ple itself. Here they do not resort to the original 
rights of Nature, because it is manifest that those 
rights give as large a power of controverting every 
part of Scripture, or even the authority of the whole, 
as they do to the controverting any articles whatso- 
ever. When a man requires you to sign an assent to 
Scripture, he requires you to assent to a doctrine as 
contrary to your natural understanding, and to your 
rights of free inquiry, as those who require your con- 
formity to any one article whatsoever. 

The subscription to Scripture is the most astonish- 
ing idea I ever heard, and will amount to just noth- 
ing at all. Gentlemen so acute liave not, that I have 
heard, ever thouglit of answering a plain, obvious 
question : Wliat is that Scripture to which they are 
content to subscribe ? They do not think that a book 
becomes of divine authority because it is bound in 
blue morocco, and is printed by John Baskett and his 
assigns. The Bible is a vast collection of different 
treatises : a man wlio holds tlic divine authority of 
one may consider the other as merely human. What 
is his Canon ? Tlie Jcwisli ? St. Jerome's ? that of 
tlie TJiirty-Nine Articles ? Luther's ? There are some 
wlio reject the Canticles; others, six of the Epistles; 
tue Apocalypse has been suspected even as heretical, 
and was doubted of for many ages, and by many great 
men. As these narrow the Canon, otliers have en- 
larged it by admitting St. Barnabas's Epistles, the 
Apostolic Constitutions, to say notliing of many oth- 


-- ti 






er Gospels. Therefore, to ascertain Scripture, you 
must have one article more ; and you must define 
what that Scripture is which you mean to teacli. 
There are, I believe, very few who, wlieu Scripture is 
so ascertained, do not see the absolute necessity of 
knowing what general doctrine a man draws from it, 
before he is sent down authorized by the state to 
teach it as pure doctrine, and receive a tenth of the 
produce of our lands. 

The Scripture is no one summary of doctrines reg- 
ularly digested, in which a man could not mistake 
liis way. It is a most venerable, but most multifa- 
rious, collection of the records of the divine econo- 
my : a collection of an infinite variety, — of cosmogo- 
ny, theology, histoi-y, prophecy, psalmody, morality, 
apologue, allegory, legislation, ethics, carried through 
different books, by different authors, at different ages, 
for different ends and purposes. It is necessary to 
sort out what is intended for esample, what only as 
narrative, — what to be understood literally, what fig- 
uratively, — where one precept is to be controlled 
and modified by another, — what is used directly, 
and what only as an argument ad hominem, — what is 
temporary, and what of perpetual obligation, — wliat 
appropriated to one state and to one set of men, and 
what the general duty of all Cliristians. If we do not 
get some security for this, we not only permit, but 
wo actually pay for, all the dangerous fanaticism 
which can be produced to corrupt our people, and to 
derange the public worship of the country. We owe 
the best we can (not infallibility, but prudence) to the 
subject, — first sound doctrine, then ability to use it. 




i ^ 'I 

V 1 





i: ^ - 






March 17, 1773. 




'iHis speech is given partly from the manuscript papers of Mr. 
Burke, and partly from a very imperfect short-hand note taken 
at the time by a member of the House of Commons. The bill 
under discussion was opposed by petitions from several congrega- 
tions calling themselves " Protestant Dissenters," who appear to 
have been principally composed of the people who are generally 
known under the denomination of " Methodists," and particularly 
by a petition from a congregation of that description residing in 
the town of Chatham. 


I ASSURE you, Sir, that the honorable gentleman 
who spoke last but one need not be in the least 
fear that I should make a war of particles pon his 
opinion, whether the hurch of England should, 
would, or ought to be alarmed. I am very clear that 
this House has no one reason in the world to think 
she is alarmed by the bill brought before you. It is 
something extraordinary that the only symptom of 
alarm in the Church of England should appear in 
the petition of some Dissenters, with whom, I believe, 
very few in this House are yet acquainted, and of 
whom you know no more than that you are assured 
by the honorable gentleman that they are not Mahom- 
etans. Of the Church we know they are not, by tlie 
name that they assiune. TJiey are, then. Dissenters. 
The first symptom of an alarm comes from some 
Dissenters assembled round the lines of Chatham: 
these lines become the security of the Church of 
England ! The honorable gentleman, in speaking of 
the lines of Chatham, tells us that they serve not only 
for the security of the wooden walls of England, hut 
for the defence of the Church of England. I suspect 
the wooden walls of England secure the lines of Chat- 
ham, rather than the lines of Chatham secure the 
wooden walls of England. 

Sir, the Church of England, if only defended by 
this miserable petition upon your table, must, I am 




afraid, upon the principles of true fortification, bo 
soon destroyed. But, fortunately, her walls, bul- 
warks, and bastions are constructed of other mate- 
rials than of stubble and straw, — are built up with 
the strong and stable matter of the gospel of liberty, 
and founded on a true, constitutional, legal establish- 
ment. But, Sir, she has other securities: she has 
the security of her own doctrines ; she has the secu- 
rity of the piety, the sanctity, of her own professors, 
— their learning is a bulwark to defend her ; she has 
the security of the two universities, not shook ia any 
single battlement, in any single pinnacle. 

But the honorable gentleman has mentioned, in- 
deed, principles which astonish me rather more than 
ever. The honorable gentleman thinks that the Dis- 
senters enjoy a large share of liberty under a conniv- 
ance ; and he thinks that the establishing toleration 
by law is an attack upon Christianity. 

The first of these is a contradiction in terms. Lib- 
erty under a connivance ! Connivance is a relaxation 
from slavery, not a definition of liberty. What is 
connivance, but a state under which all slaves live 1 
If T was to describe slavery, I would say, with those 
who hate it, it is living under will, not under law ; if 
as it is stated by its advocates, I would say, that, like 
earthquakes, like thunder, or other wars the elements 
make upon mankind, it happens rarely, it occasionally 
comes now and then upon people, who, upon ordinary 
occasions, enjoy the same legal government of liberty. 
Take it under the description of those who would 
soften those features, the state of slavery and conniv- 
ance is the same thing. If the liberty enjoyed be a 
liberty not of toleration, but of connivance, the only 
question is, whether establishing such by law is an 


attack upon Christianity. Toleration an attack upon 
Christianity ! What, then ! are wo come to this pass, 
to suppose that nothing can support Cliristianity but 
the principles of persecution ? Is that, tl\en, tlie idea 
of establishment? Is it, then, the idea of Christiani- 
ty itself, that it ought to have establishments, that it 
ought to have laws against Dissenters, but the breach 
of which laws is to be connived at ? What a picture 
of toleration ! what a picture of laws, of establisli- 
ments ! what a picture of religious and civil liberty ! 

am persuaded the honorable gentleman does not 
b.e it in this light. But these very terms become 
the strongest reasons for my support of tne bill : for I 
am persuaded that toleration, so far from being an 
attack upon Christianity, becomes the best and surest 
support that possibly can be given to it. Tlie Cliris- 
tian religion itself arose without establishment, — it 
arose even without toleration ; and whilst its own 
principles were not tolerated, it conquered all the 
powers of darkness, it conquered all the powers of the 
world. Tlie moment it began to depart from these 
principles, it converted the establishment into tyran- 
ny ; it subverted its foundations from that very hour. 
Zealous as I am for tlie principle of an establishment, 
so just an abhorrence do 1 conceive against whatev- 
er may shake it. I know nothing but the sv^nosed 
necessity of persecution that can make an esi, jlisli- 
mcnt disgusting. I would have toleration a part of 
establishment, as a principle favorable to Cliristianity, 
and as a part of Christianity. 

All seem agreed that tlie law, as it stands, inflict- 
ing penalties on all religious teachers and on school- 
masters who do not sign the Tiiirty-Nine Articles 
of Religion, ought not to be executed. We are all 




agreed that the law is not good : for that, I presume, 
is undoubtedly tlie idea of a law that ought not to be 
executed. The question, therefore, is, whether in a 
well-constituted commouwealth, which we desire ours 
to bo thought, and I trust intend that it should be, 
whether in such a commonwealth it is wise to retain 
those laws which it is not proper to execute. A penal 
law not ordinarily put in execution seems to mo to bo 
a very absurd and a very dangerous tiling. For if its 
principle be right, if the object of its prohibitions and 
penalties be a real evil, then you do in effect permit 
that very evil, which not only the reason of the thing, 
but your very law, declares oug.lit not to be permitted ; 
and thus it reflects exceedingly on the wisdom, and 
consequently derogates not a li.'tle from the authority, 
of a legislature who can -t Ciice forbid and suffer, 
and in the same breath promulgate penalty and in- 
demnity to the same persons and for the very same 
actions. But if the object of the law be no moral or 
political evil, then you ought not to hold even a ter- 
ror to those whom yyu ought certainly not to punish : 
for if It is not right to hurt, it is neither right nor 
wise to menace. Such laws, therefore, as they must 
be defective either in justice or wisdom or both, so 
they cannot exist without a considerable degree of 
danger. Take them which way you will, they are 
pressed with ugly alternatives. 

1st. All penal laws are either upon popular pros- 
ecution, or on the part of the crown. Now if they 
may be roused from their sleep, whenever a minister 
thinks proper, as instruments of oppression, then they 
prt vast bodies of men into a state of slavery and 
court dependence ; since their liberty of conscience 
and their power of executing their functions depend 




entirely on his will. I would have no man derive 
his moans of continuing any function, or hi. being 
restrained from it, but from the laws only: they 
should be his only superior and sovereign lords. 

2nd. Tlicy put statesmen and magistrates into an 
habit of playing fast and loos™ with the laws, strain- 
ing or relaxing tliem as may best suit their political 
purposes, — and in that light tend to corrupt the ex- 
ecutive power through all its offices. 

3rd. If they are taken up on popular actions, their 
operation in that light also is exceedingly evil. 
They become the instruments of private malice, 
private avarice, and not of public regulation ; they 
nourisli tlie worst of men to the prejudice of the 
best, punishing tender consciences, and rewarding 

Shall we, as the honorable gentleman tells \is we 
may with perfect security, trust to the manners of 
the age ? I am well pleased with the general man- 
ners of the times ; but the desultory execution of 
penal laws, the thing I condemn, does not depend on 
the manners of the times. I would, however, have 
the laws tuned in unison with the manners. Very 
dissonant are a gentle country and cruel laws ; very 
dissonant, that your reason is furious, but your pas- 
sions moderate, and that you are always equitable 
except in your courts of justice. 

I will beg leave to state to the House one argii- 
ment which has been much relied upon : that the 
Dissenters are not unanimous upon this business; 
that many persons are alarmed ; that it will create 
a disunion among the Dissenters, 

When any Dissenters, or any body of people, come 
here with a petition, it is not the number of people, 


but the reasonableness of the request, that should 
weigh with the House. A body of Dissenters come to 
this House, and say, " Tolerate us : we desire neither 
the parochial advantage of tithes, nor dignities, nor 
the stalls of your cathedrals : no ! let the venerable 
orders of the hierarchy exist with all their advan- 
tages." And shai' I toll them, " I reject you" just 
and reasonable petition, not because it shakes the 
Church, but because there are others, while you lie 
grovelling upon the earth, that will kick and bite 
you '• ? J idge which of these descriptions of men 
comes with a fair request : that which says, *' Sir, I 
desire liberty for my own, because I trespass on no 
man's conscience," — or the other, which says, *'I 
desire that these men should not be suffered to act 
according to their consciences, though I am tolerated 
to act according to mine. But I sign a body of Arti- 
cles, which is my title to toleration ; I sign no more, 
because more are against my conscience. But I desire 
that you will not tolerate these men, because they 
will not go so far as I, thou'r". I desire to be tolerated, 
who will not go as far as you. No, .mprison them, 
if they come within five miles of a corporate town, 
because they do not believe what J do in point of 
doctrines." Shall I not say to these men. Arrant 
gez-vous, canaille? You, who are not the predomi- 
nant power, will not give to others the relaxation un- 
der wliich you are yourself suffered to live. I have 
as high an opinion of the doctrines of the Church as 
you. I receive them implicitly, or I put my own 
explanation on them, or take that which seems to 
me to come best recommended by authority. There 
are those of the Dissenters who think more rigidly of 
the doctrine of tlie Articles relative to Predestination 


than others do. They sign the Article relative to 
it ex ammo, and literally. Otiiers allow a latitude of 
construction. These two parties are in tlie Church, 
as well as among the Dissenters ; yet in the Church 
we live quietly under the same roof. I do not seo 
why, as long as Providence gives us no further light 
into this great mystery, we should not leave things 
as the Divine Wisdom has left them. But suppose 
all tnese things to mo to be clear, (which Providence, 
however, seems to have left obscure,) yet, whilst Dis- 
senters claim a toleration in things which, seeming 
clear to me, are obscure to them, without entering 
into the merit of the Articles, with what face can 
these men say, "Tolerate us, but do not tolerate 
them " ? Toleration is good for all, or it is good for 

The discussion th's day is not between establish- 
ment on one hand and toleration on the other, but 
between those who, being tolerated themselves, refuse 
toleration to others. Tliat power shou 1 be pufl'od 
up with pride, that authority should degenerate into 
rigor, if not laudable, is but too natural. But this 
proceeding of theirs is much beyond the usual allow- 
ance to human weakness : it not only is shocking to 
our reason, but it provokes our indignation. Quid 
domini facient, audent cum taliafures? It is not the 
proud prelate thundering in his Commission Court, 
but a pack of r^anumitted slaves, with the lash of the 
beadle flagrant on their backs, and their legs still 
galled with their fetters, that would drive their 
brethren into that prison-house from whence they 
have just been permitted to escape. If, instead of 
puzzling themselves in the depths of the Divine coun- 
sels, they would turn to the mild morality of the 


*, ; 




■ » ' 



Gospel, llif-j would read tJieir ondcmnntion : — 

"O tlioii wicked servai>». ' for>; ,c tlieo all that debt 
because thou . .0: sliouldest not thou also 
have compasMon ou thy fellow-servant, oven as I had 
pity on thee ? " 

In my opinion, Sir, a magistrate, whenever he gcws 
to put any restraint upon religious freedom, can only 
do it upon this ground, — that the person dissenting 
does not dissent from the scruples of ill-informod con- 
science, but from a party ground of dissension, iu 
order to raise a faction in tho state. We give, with 
regard to rites and ceremonies, an indulgence to ten- 
der consciences. But if dissent is at all punished in 
any country, if at all it can be punished upon any 
pretence, it is upon a presumption, not that a man is 
supposed to difier conscientiously from the establish- 
ment, but that he resists truth for the sake of faction, 
— that he abets diversity of opinions in religion to 
distract the state, and to destroy the peace of his 
country. This is the only plausible, — for there is 
no true ground of persecution. As the laws stand, 
therefore, let us see how we have thought fit to 

If there is any one thing within the competency of 
a magistrate with regard to religion, it is this: that 
he has a right to direct the exterior ceremonies of 
religion ; that, whilst interior religion is within the 
jurisdiction of God alone, the external part, bodily 
action, is within the province of the chief governor. 
Hooker, and all the great lights of the Church, have 
constantly argued this to be a part within the prov- 
ince of the civil n)agistrate. But look at the Act of 
Toleration of William and Mary : there you will see 
the civil magistrate has not only dispensed with those 


things which aro mono particularly within his prov- 
iiico, with tlioso thiiij^s wiiich faction miu;ht bo sup- 
posed to take up for tlio salto of makin<r visihlo and 
extornal (li/isinns and raiding a standard of rcvrolt, 
but has also from sound politic considerations relaxed 
on thoso points which aro confessedly without his 

The honorahlo gentleman, siMjaking of the hea- 
thens, certainly could not moan to recommend any- 
thing that is derived from that impure source. But 
he has praised the tolerating spirit of the heathens. 
"Well ! htit the honorable gcntloraaii will recollect that 
heathens, that polytheists, must permit a number of 
divinities. It is the very essence of its constitution. 
But was it ever heard that polytheism tolerated a dis- 
sent from a polytheistic establisluncnt, — tlio belief 
of one God only ? Never ! never ! Sir, they con- 
stantly carried on persecution against that doctrine. 
I will not give heathens the priory of a doctrine which 
I consider the best part of Cliristiiuiity. The honor- 
able gentleman must recollect the Roman law, that 
■was clearly against the introduction of any foreign 
rites in matters of religion. You have it at largo in 
Livy, how they persecuted in the first introduction 
the rites of Bacchus ; and even before Christ, to say 
nothing of their subsequent persecutions, they perse- 
cuted the Druids and others. Heathenism, therefore, 
as in other respects erroneous, was erroneous in point 
of persecution. I do not say every heathen who per- 
secuted was therefore an impious man : I only say ho 
was mistaken, as such a man is now. But, says the 
honorable gentleman, they did not persecute Epicu- 
reans. No : the Epicureans had no quarrel with their 
religious establishment, nor desired any religion for 






i I 



themselves. It would have been very extraordinary, 
if irreligious heathens had desired either a religious 
establishment or toleration. But, says the honorable 
gentleman, the Epicureans entered, as others, into the 
temples. They did so ; they defied all subscription ; 
they defied all sorts of conformity ; there was no sub- 
scription to which they were not ready to set their 
hands, no ceremonies they refused to practise ; they 
made it a principle of their irreligion outwardly to 
conform to any religion. These atheists eluded all 
that you could do: so will all freethinkers forever. 
Then you sufier, or the weakness of your law has suf- 
fered, those great dangerous animals to escape notice, 
whilst you have nets that entangle the poor fluttering 
silken wings of a tender conscience. 

The honorable gentleman insists much upon this 
circumstance of objection, — namely, the division 
amongst the Dissenters. Why, Sir, the Dissenters, 
by the nature of the term, are open to have a di- 
vision among themselves. They are Dissenters be- 
cause they differ from the Church of England : not 
that they agree among themselves. There are Pres- 
byterians, there are Independents, — some that do not 
agree to infant baptisu; , others that do not agree to 
the baptism of adults, or any baptism. All these are, 
however, tolerated under the acts of King William, 
and subsequent acts; and their diversity of senti- 
ments with one another did not and could not fur- 
nish an argument against their toleration, when their 
difference with ourselves furnished none. 

But, says the honorable gentleman, if you suffer 
•hem to go on, they will shake the fundamental prin- 
ciples of Christianity. Let it be considered, that 
this argument goes as strongly against connivance 



which you allow, as against toleration, which you 
reject. The gentleman sets out with a principle 
of perfect liberty, or, as he describes it, connivance. 
But, for fear of dangerous opinions, you leave it in 
your power to vex a man who has not held any 
one dangerous opinion whatsoever. If one man is 
a professed atheist, another man the best Christian, 
but dissents from two of the Thirty-Nine Articles, I 
may let escape the atheist, because I know Iiim to be 
an atheist, because I am, perhaps, so inclined myself, 
and because I may connive where I think proper; 
but the conscientious Dissenter, on account of his 
attachment to that general religion which perhaps 
I hate, I shall take care to punish, because I may 
punish when I think proper. Therefore, connivance 
being an engine of private malice or private favor, 
not of good government, — an engine which totally 
fails of suppressing atheism, but oppresses conscience, 
— I say that principle becomes, not serviceable, but 
dangerous to Christianity ; that it is not toleration, 
but contrary to it, even contrary to peace ; that the 
penal system to which it belongs is a dangerous princi- 
ple in the economy either of religion or government. 
The honorable gentleman (and in him I compre- 
hend all those who oppose the bill ) bestowed in su}> 
port of their side of the question as mucb argument 
as it could bear, and much more of learning and 
decoration than it deserved. He thinks connivance 
consistent, but legal toleration inconsistent, with the 
interests of Cliristianity. Perhaps I would go as far 
as tliat honorable gentleman, if I thought toleration 
inconsistent with those interests. God forbid ! I may 
be mistaken, but I take toleration to be a part of 
religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice: 

VOL. Til. 3 



I would keep them both : it is not necessary I should 
sacrifice either. I do not like the idea of tolerating 
the doctrines of Epicurus : but nothing in the world 
propagates them so much as the oppression of the 
poor, of the honest and candid disciples of the re- 
ligion we profess in common, — I mean revealed re- 
ligion ; nothing sooner makes them take a short cut 
out of the bondage of sectarian vexation into open 
and direct infidelity than tormenting men for every 
difference. My opinion is, that, in establishing the 
Christian religion wherever you find it, curiosity or 
research is its best security ; and in this ' ay a man 
is a great deal better justified in saying. Tolerate all 
kinds of consciences, than in imitating the heathens, 
whom the honorable gentleman quotes, ?n tolerating 
those who have none. I am not over-fond of calling 
for the secular arm upon these misguided or mis- 
fu i£; men; but if ever it ought to le raised, it 

.'■' surely to be raised against these very men, 
,!. against others, whose liberty of religion you 

u...^ a pretext for proceedings which drive them in- 
to tlie bondage of impiety. What figure do I make 
in saying, I do not attack the works of these atheist- 
ical writers, but I will keep a rod hanging over tlie 
conscientious man, their bitterest enemy, because 
tliese atheists may take advantage of the liberty of 
tlieir foes to introduce irreligion ? The best book 
that ever, perhaps, has been written against these 
people is that in which the author lias collected in a 
body the whole of the infidel code, and has brought 
the writers into one body to cut them all off together. 
This was done by a Dissenter, who never did sub- 
scribe the Thirty-Nine Articles, — Dr. Lelaiid. But 
if, after all this, danger is to be apprehended, if you 


are really fearful that Christianity will indirectly suf- 
fer by this liberty, you have my free consent : go di- 
rectly, and by the straight way, and not by a circuit 
in which in your road you may destroy your friends ; 
point your arms against these men who do the mis- 
chief you fear promoting; point your arms against 
men who, not contented with endeavoring to turn 
your eyes from the blaze and effulgence of light by 
which life and immortality is so gloriously demon- 
strated by the Gospel, would even extinguish that 
faint glimmering of Nature, that only comfort sup- 
plied to ignorant man before this great illumination, 

— them who, by attacking even the possibility of 
all revelation, arraign all the dispensations of Provi- 
dence to man. These are the wicked Dissenters you 
ought to fear; these are the people against whom 
you ought to aim the shaft of the law; these are 
the men to whom, arrayed in all the terrors of gov- 
ernment, I would say. You shall not degrade us into 
brutes ! These men, these factious men, as tlie hon- 
orable gentleman properly called them, are the just 
objects of vengeance, not tlie conscientious Dissenter, 

— these men, who would take away whatever enno- 
bles the rank or consoles the misfortunes of human 
nature, by breaking off that connection of observan- 
ces, of affections, of hopes and fears, which bind us 
to the Divinity, and constitute the glorious and dis- 
tinguishing prerogative of humanity, that of being a 
religious creature: against these I would have the 
laws rise in all their majesty of terrors, to fulminate 
Buch vain and impious wretches, and to awe them 
into impotence by the only dread they can fear or 
believe, to learn that eternal lesson, Discite. justi- 
tiam, moniti, et non temnere Divoi! 

U ' 


At the same time that I would cut up the very root 
of atheism, I would respect all conscience, — all con- 
science that is really such, and which perhaps its 
very tenderness proves to be sincere. I wish to see 
tlio Established Church of England great and power- 
ful ; I wish to see her foundations laid low and deep, 
tliat she may crush the giant powers of rebellious 
darkness ; I woiild have her head raised up to that 
heaven to which she conducts us. I would have her 
open wide lier hospitable gates by a noble and liberal 
compreliension, but I would have no breaches in her 
wall; I would have her cherish all tliose who are 
within, and pity all those who are without ; I would 
have her a common blessing to the world, an exam- 
ple, if not an instructor, to those who liave not the 
happiness to belong to her ; I would have her give a 
lesson of peace to mankind, that a vexed and wander- 
ing generation might be taught to seek for repose 
and toleration in the maternal bosom of Christian 
charity, and not in the harlot lap of infidelity and 
indifference. Nothing has driven people more into 
that house of seduction than the mutual hatred of 
Christian congregations. Long may wo enjoy our 
church under a learned and edifj'ng episcopacy! 
But episcopacy may fail, and religion exist. Tlie 
most horrid and cruel blow that can be offered to 
civil socie'y is through atheism. Do not promote di- 
versity; when you have it, bear it; have as many 
sorts of religion as you find in your country ; there is 
a reasonable worsliip in them all. Tlie others, the 
mfidels, are outlaws of tlie constitution, not of this 
country, but of the human race. They are never, 
never to be supported, never to be tolerated. Under 
the systematic attacks of these people, I see some of 


the props of good government already begin to fail ; I 
see propagated principles which will not leave to re- 
ligion even a toleration. I see myself sinking every 
day under the attacks of these wretched people. How 
shall I arm myself against them? By uniting all 
those in affection, who are united in the belief of 
the great principles of the Godhead that made and 
sustains the world. They who hold revelation give 
double assurance to their country. Even the man 
who does not hold revelation, yet who wishes that it 
were proved to him, who observes a pious silence with 
regard to it, such a man, though not a Christian, is 
governed by religious principles. Let him be toler- 
ated in this country. Let it be but a serious religion, 
natural <,t revealed, take what you can get. Clierish, 
blow up the slightest spark: one day it may be a 
pure and holy flame. By this proceeding you form 
an alliance offensive and defensive against those great 
ministers of darkness in the world who are endeav- 
oring to shake all the works of God established in 
order and beauty. 

Perhaps I am carried too far ; but it is in the road 
into which the honorable gentleman has led me. The 
honorable gentleman would have us fight this confed- 
eracy of the powers of darkness with the single arm 
of the Church of England, — would have us not only 
fight against infidelity, but fight at the same time 
with all the faith in the world except our own. In 
the moment we make a front against the common en- 
emy, we have to combat with all those who are the 
natural friends of our ccuse. Strong as we are, we 
are not equal to this. The cause of the Church of 
England is included in that of religion, not that of 
religion in the Church of England. I will stand up 

' 1 

1 % 



at all times for the rights of conscience, as it is 
such, — not for its particular modes against its gen- 
eral principles. One may be right, another mistak- 
en ; but if I have more strength than my brother, 
it shall be employed to support, not to oppress his 
weakness ; if I have more light, it shall be used to 
guide, not to dazzle him 

If, I- « 


oa A 


UAT U, 1793, 








I NEVER govern myself, no ratioi :1 man ever did 
govern himself, by abstractions and universals. 
I do not put abstract ideas wholly out of any ques< 
tion; »/ecause I well know that under that name I 
should dismiss principles, and that without the guide 
and light of sound, well-understood principles, all rea- 
sonings in politics, as in everything else, would be 
only a confused jumble of particular facts and details, 
without the means of drawing out any sort of theo- 
retical or practical conclusion. A statesman differs 
from a professor in an university : the latter has only 
the general view of society ; the former, the states- 
man, has a number of circumstances to combine with 
those general ideas, and to take into his considera- 
tion. Circumstances are infinite, are infinitely com- 
bined, are variable and transient: he who does not 
take them into consideration is not erroneous, but 
stark mad ; dat operam ut cum ratione insaniat ; he is 
metaphysically mad. A statesman, never losing sight 
of principles, is to be guided by circumstances ; and 
judging contrary to the exigencies of the moment, he 
may ruin his country forever. 

I go on this ground, — that government, represent- 
ing the society, has a general supei . ^tending control 
over all the actions and over all the publicly propa- 
gated doctrines of men, witliout which it never could 






provide adequately for all the wants of society : but 
then it is to use this power with an equitable discre- 
tion, the only bond of sovereign authority. For it is 
not, perhaps, so much by the assumption of unlawful 
powers as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of 
those which are most legal, that governments op{)0!»o 
their true end and object : for there is such a tiling 
as tyranny, as well as usurpation. Tou can hardly 
state to mu a case to which legislature is the most 
confessedly co.npetent, in which, if the rules of be- 
nignity and prudence are not observed, the most mis- 
chievous and oppressive things may not be done. So 
that, after all, it is a moral and virtuous discretion, 
and not any abstract theory of right, which keeps 
governments faithful to their ends. Crude, uncon- 
nected truths are in the world of practice what false- 
hoods are in theory. A reasonable, prudent, prov- 
ident, and moderate coercion may be a means of 
preventing acts of extreme ferocity and rigor: for 
by propagating excessive and extravagant doctrines, 
such extravagant disorders take place as require the 
most perilous and fierce corrections to oppose them. 

It is not morally true that wo are bound to estab- 
lish in every country tliat form of religion which in 
our minds is most a<;recable to truth, and conduces 
most to the eternal hap^tiness of mankind. In the 
same manner, it is not true that we are, against the 
conviction of our own judgment, to establish a sys- 
tem of opinions and practices directly contrary to 
those ends, only because some majority of the peo- 
ple, told by the head, may prefer it. No conscien- 
tious man would willingly establish what he knew to 
be false and mischievous in religion, or in anything 
else. No wise man, on the contrary, would tyraimi- 


cally set up his own sense so as to reprobate that of 
the great prevailing body of tlio community, and pay 
no regard to the established opinions and prejudices 
of mankind, or refuse to them the means of securing 
a religious instruction suitable to these prejudices. 
A great deal depends on the state in which you find 


An alliance between Church and State in a Chris- 
tian commonwealth is, in my opinion, an idle and 
a fanciful speculation. An alliance is between two 
things that are in their nature distinct and independ- 
ent, such as between two sovereign states. But in a 
Christian commonwealth the Church and the State 
are one and the same thing, being different integral 
parts of the same whole. For the Church has been 
always divided into two parts, the clergy and the lai- 
ty, — of which the laity is as much an essential inte- 
gral part, and has as much its duties and privileges, 
as tlie clerical member, and in the rule, order, and 
government of tlie Church has its share. Religion is 
so far, in my opinion, from being out of the province 
or the duty of a Christian magistrate, that it is, and 
it ought to be, not only his care, but the principal 
thing in his care ; because it is one of the great bonds 
of human society, and its object the supreme good, 
the ultimate end and object of man himself. The 
magistrate, who is a man, and charged with tlie con- 
cerns of men, and to whom very specially nothing 
human is remote and indifferent, has a right and a 
duty to watch over it with an unceasing vigilance, to 
protect, to promote, to forward it by every rational, 
just, and prudent means. It is principally his duty 
to prevent tlie abuses which grow out of every strong 
and efficient principle that actuates the human mind. 




As religion is one of the lioads ol -oli ty, lie oviglit 
not to suffer it to bo made tliu prt-eit of <' -troying 
its fM^acc, order, lil' rty, and its see iritjr. 'ove all, 
he ought Btrictly i look to it, wi. . me "gin i 
form new comhmatious, to b-' distiugviishei hy ne 
names, and u.>i" ciui ;.' when 'loy ni'' gle a political 
Bystcni \. ith their i .ligious oj iaionh, true or false, 
pliiusibl ' or irapUui^ ble. 

it is tlio interest, uad ii is the duty, and because it 
is tiie interest and tlie duty, it is the right of govern- 
ment to attend mucii to opinions ; because, as opin- 
ions soon ccmbine with passions, even when they do 
not produce tliem, tl: y have in ich influence on ac 
tions. Factions are formed upon opinii as, which fac- 
tious become in off ot 'odies corporate in the state; 
nay. factious generate ophiions. in orde to become 
a lentre of union, and to i\v ish wa^ ijwords to 
parties; and this may make it e.!.ped I'h for govern- 
ment to forbid things in themselves innocent aisd 
i.eutral. 1 am not foiiil of defining with precision 
what the ultimate rijrhts of the sovereign suprem 
pow >r, in proviiiing f( the s^ioty of liie commoi 
woaltli, may be, or miv not extern! to. It will - -uih 
very little what my nnx ms or what their own a* ons 
on the suViject mti; oe . beciuse, according, to tbe 
exi;^ence, they will take, in faet, the step iv! ich 
seem to them i .'cessa y for the preservation ot ilie 
whole: for as st >!eservation in individuals is *> 
lust law of Natl, o, tlio same wi prevail in soci» 
wiio will, right )r wioul , maku that ui object j-;: 
amount to all ot ;er . iglits hat lever. " iiere ara 
ways and means by whicii a good man would not even 

save the eMramonwcuhii All thirigs founded 

on tlie idea of danger ougli' in a great degree to be 



tempofiry. Ml policy i very 8u-t)icious tliat sacri- 
fices ft:.y part to ♦''.e ideal good ol tiio wliolc. Tha 

jyect of tl)o jitate i (as far as mity ' ') tlm liappin< -^m 
of the whol.\ Whatever makes multitudos of men 
utterly mi> al)io can tx vor answer that otijoct; iii- 
dei 1, it ec.tradicts it whoU and entirely: and tli*? 
liappines" ' r ini><cry of niai iid, (^stimateii '>y their 
fetdings a d sentiments, anu not by any theories of 
their ri<»l , is, and ougli^ to ho, the standanl for the 
coitdut of letrislators towards fhe Tliis nat- 
w ;illy u/i'i cessarily conducis us to thi neciiliar 
and chara'! i-tic situatior of a i>eoftlo, and to a 
knowledge their uj/inion , prcjti ices, hahits, and 

'1 the circums^tances that diver an' color life. 
first question a g 1 statesman would ask him- 
, therefore, would be. How and in wliat circum- 
nces do you find th^ -ociety? and to aci ujjon 

" > the other laws relating to other snots I havo 
notmng to say : I only lo k to the petition which lias 
giv^n rise to this proceeding. I confine myself to 
that, because in my opini< its merits have little or 
no relation to that of the hor laws whicli tlie riiht 
honorable gentleman has with so much abili 1 

with it. With the Catholics, witli the P 
with the Anabaptists, with the Independ 
Quakers, I have nothing at all to do. 
possessioUf — a great title in all humaix ;r 
tenor and spirit of our laws, whetlier V 
sh aining or whether they wore rclaxiii 
to taken a no! uer course. Thi spir-t ot 
ai'plied th penalty or tlieir rclioi to ii 


al'use to be opressod 
and the pre ision for 

til." ;;iiovance to bo 

• iposed 

Caflioiic and a Quatvcr i- 


' I 

1 11 




been totally different, according to his exigence : you 
did not give a Catholic liberty to be freed from an 
oath, or a Quaker power of saying mass with impu- 
nity. You have done this, because you never have 
laid it down as an universal proposition, as a maxim, 
that nothing relative to religion was your concern, 
but the direct contrary ; ami therefore you have al- 
ways examined whether there was a grievance. It 
has been so at all times : the legislature, whether 
right or wrong, went no other way to work but 
by circumstances, times, and necessities. My mind 
marches the same road; my school is the practice 
and usage of Parliament. 

Old religious factions are volcanoes burnt out ; on 
the lava and ashes and squalid scoriae of old eruptions 
grow the peaceful olive, the cl'eering vine, and the 
sustaining corn. Such was the first, sucli the second 
condition of Vesuvius. But when a new fire bursts 
out, a face of desolations comes on, not to be rectified 
iii ages. Therefore, when men come before us, and 
rise up like an exhalation from the ground, they 
come in a questionable shape, and we must exorcise 
them, and try whether their intents be wicked or 
charitable, whether they bring airs from heaven or 
blasts from hell. This is the first time that our 
records of Parliament have heard, or our experience 
or history given us an account of any rcligioits con- 
gregation or association known by the name which 
tliose petitioners have assumed. We are now to see 
by what people, of what character, and under what 
temporary circumstances, this business is brought 
before you. We are to see whether there be any 
and what mixture of political dogmas and political 
practices with their religious tenets, of what nature 


they are, and how far they are at present practically 
separable from them. This faction (the authors of 
tlie petition) are not confined to a theological sect, 
but are also a political faction. 1st, As theological, 
we are to show that they do not aim at the quiet 
enjoyment of their own liberty, but are associated 
for the express purpose of proselytism. In proof of 
this first proposition, read their primary association. 
2nd, That their purpose of proselytism is to collect a 
multitude sufficient by force and violence to overturn 
the Church. In proof of the second proposition, see 
the letter of Priestley to Mr. Pitt, and extracts from 
his works. 3rd, That the designs against the Church 
are concurrent with a design to subvert the State. 
In proof of the third proposition, read the advertise- 
ment of the Unitarian Society for celebrating the 1-lth 
of July. 4th, On what model they intend to build,— 
that it is the French. In proof of the fourth proposi- 
tion, read the correspondence of the Revolution So- 
ciety with the clubs of France, read Priestley's adlier- 
ence to their opinions. 5th, What the French is with 
regard to religious toleration, and witli regard to, 1. 
Religion, — 2. Civil happiness, — 3. Virtue, order, 
and real liberty, — 4. Commercial opulence, — 5. 
National defence. In proof of the fifth proposition, 
read tlie ■cprcsentation of the Frencli minister of the 
Home Department, and the report of the committee 
upon it. 

Formerly, when the superiority of two parties con- 
tending for dogmas and an establishment was tlio 
question, we knew in such a contest the wliole of the 
evil. We knew, for instance, that Calvinism would 
prevail according to Westminster Catechism with 
regard to tenets. We knew that Presbytery would 


. M 

: i: 

I. ■'? 


prevail in chirch government. But we do not know 
what opinions would prevail, if the present Dissenters 
should become masters. They will not toll us their 
present opinions ; and one principle of modern Dis- 
sent is, not to discover them. Next, as their religion 
is in a continual fluctuation, and is so by principle 
and in profession, it is impossible for us to know 
what it will be. If religion only related to the indi- 
vidual, and was a question between God and the con- 
science, it would not be wise, nor in my opinion 
equitable, for Laman authority to step in. But when 
religion is embodied into faction, and factions have 
objects to pursue, it will and must, more or less, be- 
come a question of power between them. If even, 
when embodied into congregations, they limited their 
principle to tlieir own congregations, and were sat- 
isfied themselves to abstain from what they thought 
unlawful, it would be cruel, in my opinion, to molest 
them in that tenet, and a consequent practice. But 
we know that they not only entertain these opinions, 
but entertain them with a zeal for propagating them 
by force, and employing the power of law and place 
to destroy establishments, if ever they should come 
to power sufficient to effect their purpose : tliat is, in 
other words, tliey declare they would persecute the 
heads of our Cluirch ; and the question is, whether 
you should keep them within tlie bounds of tok a- 
tion, or sultjcct yourself to their persecution. 

A bad and very censurable practice it is to warp 
doubtful and ambiguous expressions to a perverted 
sense, which makes the cliargo not the crime of oth- 
ers, but tlie construction of your own malice ; nor is 
it allowed to draw conclusions from allowed prem- 
ises, which those who lay down the promises utterly 


deny, and disown as their conclusions. For this, 
though it may possibly be good logic, cannot by any 
possibility whatsoever be a fair or charitable repre- 
sentation of any man or any set of men. It may 
show the erroneous nature of principles, but it argues 
nothing as to dispositions and intentions. Par be 
such a mode from me ! A mean and unworthy jeal- 
ousy it would be to do anything upon the mere spec- 
ulative apprehension of what men will do. But let 
us pass by our opinions concerning the danger of the 
Church. What do the gentlemen themselves think 
of that danger? They from whom the danger is 
apprehended, what do they declare to be their own 
designs ? "What do they conceive to be their own 
forces? And what do they proclaim to be their 
means ? Their designs they declare to be to destroy 
*he Established Church, and not to set up a new 
one of their own. See Priestley. If they should 
find the State stick to the Church, the ques-tion is, 
whether they love the constitution in State so well 
as that they would not destroy the coiistitution of 
the State in order to destroy that of the Church. 
Most certainly they do not. 

The foundations on which obedience to govern- 
ments is founded are not to bo constantly discussed. 
That we are here supposes the discussion already 
made and the dispute settled. We must assume tlie 
rights of what represents the public to control tlie 
individual, to make his will and his acts to submit to 
their will, until some intolerable grievance sliall make 
us know that it does not answer its end, and will sul)- 
mit neither to reformation nor restraint. Otherwise 
we should dispute all the points of morality, before 
we can punish a murderer, robber, and adulterer; 

VOL. VII. 4 






we should analyze all society. Dangers by being 
despised grow great ; so they do by absurd provision 
against them. Stulti est dixisse, Non putdram. Wheth- 
er an early discovery of evil designs, an early declara- 
tion, and an early precaution against them be more 
wise than to stifle all inquiry about them, for fear 
they should declare themselves more early than other- 
wise they would, and therefore precipitate the evil, — 
all this depends on the reality of the danger. Is it 
only an unbookish jealousy, as Shakspeare calls it ? 
It is a question of fact. Does a design against the 
Constitution of this country exist ? If it does, and if 
it is carried on with increasing vigor and activity bj 
a restless faction, and if it receives countenance by 
the most ardent and enthusiastic applauses of its 
object in the great council of this kingdom, by men 
of the first parts which this kingdom produces, per- 
haps by the first it has over produced, can I thin.: 
that there is no danger ? If there be danger, must 
there be no precaution at all against it ? If you ask 
whether I think the danger urgent and immediate, I 
answer. Thank God, I do not. The body of the peo- 
ple is yet sound, the Constitution is in their hearts, 
while wicked men are endeavoring to put another 
into their heads. But if I see the very same begin- 
nings wliich have commonly ended in great calami- 
ties, I ought to act as if they might produce the very 
same effects. Early and provident fear is tho ..other 
of safety ; because in that state of things the mind 
is firm and collected, and the judgment unembar- 
rassed. But when the fear and tlie evil feared come 
on together, and press at once upon us, deliberation 
itself is ruinous, which saves upon all other occasions ; 
because, when perils are instant, it delays decision : 



the man is in a flutter, and in a hurry, and his judg- 
ment is gone, — as the judgment of the deposed King 
of Prance and his ministers was gone, if tlie latter 
did not premeditately betray him. lie was just come 
from liis usual amusement of hunting, wlien the head 
of the column of treason and assassination was ar- 
rived at his house. Let not tlie king, let not the 
Prince of "Wales, be surprised in this manner. Let 
not both Houses of Parliament be led in triumph 
along with him, and have law dictated to tbom by 
the Constitutional, the Revolution, and the Unitarian 
Societies. These insect reptiles, whilst they go on 
only caballing and toasting, only fill us with disgust ; 
if they get above their natural size, and increase the 
quantity whilst they keep the quality of their venom, 
they become objects of the greatest terror. A spider 
in his nr iral size is only a spider, ugly and loath- 
some ; ai- his flimsy net is only fit for catching flies. 
But, good God ! suppose a spider as large as an ox, 
and tliat he spread cables about us, all the wilds of 
Africa would not produce anything so dreadful : — 

Qaale portcntum ncque militaria 
Daania in latia alit escnietis, 
Nee Jabce tellas gcnerat, leonnm 
Arida nutrix. 

Think of them who dare menace in the way they 
do in tlieir present state, what would they do, if they 
had power commensurate to their malice ? God for- 
bid I ever should have a despotic master ! — but if 
I must, my choice is made. I will have Louis the 
Sixteenth rather than Monsieur Bailly, or Brissot, or 
Chabot, — rather George the Tinrd, or George the 
Fourth, than Dr. Priestley, or Dr. Kippis, — persons 
who would not load a tyrannous power by the poi- 


w LSLjm 

I "■■' 


soned taunts of a vulgar, low-bred insolence. I hope 
we have still spirit enough to keep us from the one 
or the other. The contumelies of tyranny are the 
worst parts of it. 

But if the danger be existing in reality, and silent- 
ly maturing itself to our destruction, what ! is it not 
better to take treason unprepared than that treason 
should come by surprise upon us and take us un- 
prepared ? If we must have a conflict, let us have 
it with all our forces fresh about us, with our gov- 
ernment in full function and full strength, our troops 
uncorrupted, our revenues in the legal hands, our 
arsenals filled and possessed by government, — and 
not wait till the conspirators met to commemorate 
the 14th of July shall seize on the Tower of London 
and the magazines it contains, murder the governor, 
and the mayor of London, seize upon the king's per- 
son, drive out the House of Lords, occupy your gal- 
lery, and thence, as from an high tribunal, dictate to 
you. The degree of danger is not only from the 
circumstances which threaten, but from the value 
of the objects which are threatened. A small dan- 
ger menacing an inestimable object is of more im- 
portance than the greatest perils which regard one 
that is indifferent to us. The whole question of the 
danger depends upon facts. The first fact is, wheth- 
er those who sway in France at present confine them- 
selves to the regulation of their internal aflFairs, — or 
whether upon system they nourish cabals in all other 
countries, to extend their power by producing revo- 
lutions similar to their own. 2. The next is, whether 
we have any cabals formed or forming witliin these 
kmgdoms, to cooperate with them for the destruction 
of our Constitution. On the solution of these two 



questions, joined with our ojiiuion of the value of 
tho object to be aflfected by their machinations, tho 
justness of our alarm and tho necessity of our vigi- 
lance must depend. Every private conspiracy, every 
open attack upon the laws, is dangerous. One rob- 
bery is an alarm to all property ; else I am sure wo 
exceed measure in our punishment. As robberies in- 
crease in number and audacity, tho alarm increases. 
These wretches are at war with us upon principle. 
They hold this government to be an usurpation. 
See the language of the Department. 

The whole question is on the realiti/ of the danger. 
Is it such a danger as would justify that fear qui ca- 
dere potest in hominem constantem et non metuentem f 
This is the fear which the principles of jurisprudence 
declare to be a lawful and justifiable fear. When 
a man threatens my life openly and publicly, I may 
demand from him securities of the peace. When 
every act of a man's life manifests such a design 
stronger than by words, even though i>e does not 
make such a declaration, I am justified in being on 
my guard. They are of opinion that they are al- 
ready one fifth of the kingdom. If so, their force 
is naturally not contemptible. To say that in all 
contests the decision will of course be in favor of 
the greater number is by no means true in fact. 
For, first, the greater number is generally composed 
of men of sluggish tempers, slow to act, and unwill- 
ing to attempt, and, by being in possession, are so 
disposed to peace that they are unwilling to take 
early and vigorous measures for their defence, and 
tliey are almost always caught unprepared: — 

Nee coiere pare* : alter vergentibus annia 
In geniam, longoqne togae tranquillior usu. 

» I 


Dedidicit jam pace dncem; . , . 

Nee rcparare noru virei. mnltnmque priori 

Credere fortune : .ut uiagni nominU umbra.* 

vigorous, and courageous, who make amends for 

of vel„.7 ''?,* ^'^ "«'«^* ^^ *b«>^ superabundant 
of veloc ty, w.U create an acting power of the great 

est possible strength. When merare furiouslflSd 
fana^cally fond of an object, they will pr fer it as 

rt7 a n'd T't^ *'"' T ^^^«' *^ ^^^^^ o^I p;o" 

S. , '''' """" ^^^^^= ^<1 can there be a 

doubt, in such a case, that they would prefer ,t to 

h peace of their courUry ? fe ij to be doubted hat 

f hey have not strength enough at home, the^ t?U 

call in foreign force to aid them ? 

go further: it would not be iust evr^n fn\. 
sequences from principles wh^^h houg^v d" Mo' 

TXnZTff.'' *'^"- ^«*^^-'disbi;lii : 

faction and let them act as individuals, and when 
I see them with no other views than to enjoy IlS 
own conscience in neace I fnr «„^ u n "'^ 
fully vote for their reS ' ' ''^'" "^°^' ''''''■ 

deriyta^lrt'"?'' ''.'" *"°^' °"g^^* ^ "^ ^- 

of°;di«l "".r™""" °"««'"'.-*« " 
cl£r:~':. ""'""=» ""--Virac,. war. and 

• Lucan, L 129 to 185. 



Whether anything be proper to be denied, which 
is right in itself, because it may lead to the demand 
of others which it is improper to grant ? Abstracted- 
ly speaking, there can be no doubt that this question 
ought to be decided in the negative. But as no mor- 
al questions are ever abstract questions, this, before 
I judge upon any abstract proposition, must be em- 
bodied in circumstances ; for, since things are right 
or wrong, morally speaking, only by their relation 
and connection with other things, this very question 
of what it is politically right to grant depends upon 
this relation to its effects. It is the direct office of 
wisdom to look to the consequences of the acts we 
do : if it be not this, it is worth nothing, it is out of 
place and of function, and a downright fool is as ca- 
pable of government as Charies Fox. A man desires 
a sword : why should he be refused ? A sword is a 
means of defence, and defence is the natural right of 
man,— nay, the first of all his rights, and which com- 
prehends them all. But if I know that the sword 
desired is to be employed to cut my own throat, com- 
mon sense, and my own self-defence, dictate to me 
to keep out of his hands this natural right of the 
sword. But whether this denial be wise or foolish, 
just or unjust, prudent or cowardly, depends entirely 
on the state of the man's means. A man may have 
very ill dispositions, and yet be so very weak as to 
make all precaution foolish. See whether this be the 
case of these Dissenters, as to their designs, as to their 
means, numbers, activity, zeal, foreign assistance. 

The first question to be decided, when we talk of 
the Church's being in danger from any particular 
measure, is, whether the danger to the Church is a 
public evil : for to those who think that the national 





R ™ „irtr' """"^ "■*™''"*'' "'"-"^ "..etc. 

^ peop.0 ,„se„,iMe .„ T/^^otrra C 
*"'■, ■ «"°l"'n™ i» strict, methodical, in il T 
ture 1 ,gl,Ij, aristoeratioal, aud so reituto ihLi I, i 

r Lent ™r "°' f '"?"^ '»'«*"^ "i* M« 

crapulous habit of mind: the™isJeTo; ,f ■ °'"" 
fundamental, goo, to the CroTt L J •?'" ""' '' 



Bworn at the altar like Hannibal. The war is with the 
Establishment itself, — no quarter, no compromise. 
As a party, they are infmitely mischievous : see the 
declarations of Priestley and Price, — declarations, 
you will say, of ?iot men. Likely enough : but who 
are the cool men who have disclaimed them? Not 
one, — no, not one. Which of them lias ever told you 
that they do not mean to deitroy the Cliurch, if ever it 
should be in their power ? Which of them has told 
you that this would not be the first and favorite use 
of any power they should get? Not one, — no, not 
one. Declarations of hot men! The danger is 
thence, that they are under the conduct of hot men : 
fahos in amore odia non fingere. 

They f^ay they are well affected to the State, and 
mean only to destroy the Church. If this be the 
utmost of their meaning, you must first consider 
whether you wish your Church Establishment to be 
destroyed. If you do, you had much better do it now 
in temper, in a grave, moderate, and parliamentary 
way. But if you think otherwise, and that you think 
it to be an invaluable blessing, a way fully sufficient 
to nourish a manly, rational, solid, and at the same 
time humble piety, — if you find it well fitted to the 
frame and pattern of your civil constitution, — if you 
find it a barrier against fanaticism, infidelity, and 
atheism, — if you find that it furnishes support to 
the human mind in the afflictions and distresses of 
the world, consolation in sickness, pain, poverty, and 
death, — if it dignifies our nature with tlie hope of 
immortality, leaves inquiry free, whilst it preserves 
an authority to teach, where authority only can teach, 
communia altar ia, ceque ac ^^triarn, diligite, coUte^fo- 





In the discussion of this •ubject whi<'h took pi ict 
year 1790, Mr. Burke declared his intention, ii, ( 
motion for repealing the Test Acts had been apn la lo, oi 
propoeing to substitute the following test in the nmm of 

what was intended to be repealed: 

'I, A. B., do, in the presence of God, sincerely proff.M, 
and believe that a religious estal-Hshment in this state is not 
oontrarj to the ' iw of God, or disagreeable to the law of 
Nature, or to the i .. principles of the Christian religion, 
or that ii is noxious to the community ; and I do .jncerely 
promise and enga.-e. before God, that I never will, b> any 
conspiracy, contrivau, or political device whatever, attempt, 
or abet others in any attempt, to subvert the constitution r,f 
the Church of England, as the .ame is now by law estab- 
lished, and that I will not employ any power or influence 
Which I may derive from any office corporate, or any other 
office which I hold or shall hold under his Majesty, his 
heirs and successors, to destroy and subvnrt the same,'or to 
cause members to be elected into any corporation or into 
Parhament, give my vote in the election of any member or 
members of Parliament, or into any office, for or on account 
of their attachment to any other or different religious opin- 
ions or establishments, or with any hope that they may pro- 
mote the same to the prejudice of the Established Church, 
but will dutifully and peaceably content myself with my pri- 
vate liberty of conscience, aii the same is aUowed by law. 
oo help me God." 



rBBSUABT T, 17T1. 




The motion supported in the foUowing Speech, which was 
for leave to bring in a biU to ascertain the rights of the elec- 
tors in respect to the eliglbiUty of persons to serve in Parlla- 
ment, was rejected by a majority of 167 against 108. 




IN every complicated constitution (and every free 
constitution is complicated) cases will arise when 
the several orders of the state will clash with one 
another, and disputes will arise about the limits of 
their several rights and privileges. It may be almost 

impossible to reconcile them ,, , >, 

Carry the principle on by which you expelled Mr. 
Wilkes, there is not a man in the House, hardly a 
man in the nation, who may not be disquahfiea. 
Tiiat this House should have no power of expulsion 
is an hard saying: that this House should have a 
general discretionary power of disqualification is a 
dangerous saying. That the people should not choose 
their own representative is a saying that shakes the 
Constitution: that this House should name the rep- 
resentative is a saying which, followed by practice, 
subverts the Constitution. They have the right ot 
electing; you have a right of expelling: they ot 
choosing; you of judging, and only of judging, ol 
the choice. What bound:- shall be set to the freedom 
of that choice ? Their right is prior to ours : we all 
originate there. They are the mortal enemies of the 
House of Commons who would persuade them to 
think or to act as if they were a self-originated 
magistracy, independent of the people, and uncon- 
uccted with tlieir opinions and feelings. Under a 






pretence of exalting the dignity, they undermine the 
very foundatior^ of this House. When the question 
s asked here What disturbs the people? whence aU 

they tell us It ,s from the efforts of libellers, and the 
wickedness .f the people: a worn-out minist;rial pre! 
tence. If a.road the people are deceived by popular 
witlun we are deluded by ministerial cant 
The question amounts to this: Wliether you mean 

scmblv 'n *"'"".'^;" ^" '''''^'^y and despotic 
assemWy ? I see and I feel the delicacy and difficul- 
ty of the ground upon which we stand in this que^ 
t.o„. I could wish, indeed, that they who advise the 
crown had not left Parliament in this very unlce! 
J|l distress, in which they can neither re^r^^l 
dignity nor persist with justice. Another Parliamen 
m.ght have satisfied the people without lowe^iL 
hemselves. But our situation is not in our owf 
choice : our conduct in that situation is all that is in 
our own option. The substance of the question is, o 
pu bounds to your own power by the rules and prin! 
2^ '' '^"- '^'"^ '^^' I «- -"-We, a difficult thb. 
nJtZ'"T'r'^"'°' ""^ "'"'^'^•''"^ P'^'-t of human 
the necessity ol ,t. First, because the greater the 
pcnver, the more dangerous the abuse. %ince tie 
Revolution, at least, the power of the nation has aU 
flowed with a full tide into the House of Common 
^ccondly, because the House of Commons, as Tb 
^.e most powerful, is the most corruptible part of the 
whole Constitution. Our public wounds ca-iiio e 
concealed ; to be cured, they must be laid open. The 
public does think we are a corrupt bo.],' i„ o . 
le,.lata. capanit,, we are, iu xnost iiisianecs, e - 



teemed a very wise body; in our judicial, we have 
no credit, no cliaractcr at all. Our judgments stiuk 
in the nostrils of the people. They think us to be 
not only without virtue, but without shame. There- 
fore the greatness of our power, and the great and 
iust opinion of our corruptibility and our corruption, 
render it necessary to fix some bound, to plant some 
landmark, which we are never to exceed. This is 
what tlie bill proposes. 

First, on this head, I lay it down as a funda- 
mental rule in the law and Constitution of this 
country, that tliis House has not by itself alone a 
ie.risktive authority in any case whatsoever. I know 
that the contrary was the doctrine of the usurping 
House of Commons, which threw down the fences 
and bulwarks of law, which annihilated first tlie 
lords, tlien the crown, then its constituents. But 
the first thing that was done on the restoration of 
the Constitution was to settle this point. Secondly, I 
lay it down as a rule, that the power of occasional 
iucapacitation, on discretionary grounds, is a legishv 
tive power. In order to establish this principle, if 
it should not be sufficiently proved by being stated, 
tell mo what are the criteria, the characteristics, by 
which you dit^tinguish between a legislative and a ju- 
ridical act. It will be necessary to state, shortly, tlie 
difference between a legislative and a juridical act. 

A legislative act has no reference to any rule but 
tlie^e two,— orivrinal justice, and discretionary appU- 
.ation. Tlicrcfo.-e it can give rights, — rights where 
no ri-hts existed before; and it can take away rights 
where they were before established. For the law, 
which binds all others, docs not and cannot bind 
the law -maker: he, and he alone, is above tlie law. 

/ Vf 



But a judge, a person exercising a judicial capacity, 
IS neither to applj to original justice nor to a dis- 
cretionary application of it. He goes to justice and 
discretion only at second hand, and through tlie me- 
dium of some superiors. He is to work neither up- 
on his opinion of the one nor of the other, but upon 
a fixed rule, of which he has not the making but 
singly and solely tlie application to tlie case. 

The power assumed by the House neither is nor 
can be judicial power exercised according to known 
law The properties of law are, first, that it should 
be known ; secondly, that it should be fixed, and not 
occasional. First, this power cannot l.e according to 
the first property of law; because no man doe" or 
can know it, nor do you yourselves know upon what 
grounds you will vote the incapacity of any man Xo 
man in Westminster Hall, or in any court upon earlh, 
will say that is law, upon which, if a man going to his 
counsel sliould say to him, "What is my tenure in 
law of this estate ? " he would answer, " Truly Sir I 
know not; the court has no rule but its own di^cre- 
tion; they will determine." It is not a fixed law • 
because you profess you vary it according to tho oc- 
casion, exercise it according to your discretion, no 
man can call for it as a riglit. It is argued, that the 
incapacity is not originally voted, but a consequence 
of a power of expulsion. But if you expel, not ■at> 
on legal, but upon arbitrary, that is, upon discretion- 
ary grounds, and the i.icapacity is ex vi termini and 
uiclusivcly comprehended in the expulsion, is not tlie 
incapacity voted in the expulsion ? Are tliey not con- 
vertible terms? And if incapacity is voted to be in- 
herent m expulsion, if expulsion be arbitrary, inca- 
pacity IS arljitrary also. I have therefore shown that 



the power of incapacitation is a legislative power ; 1 
have shown that legislative power does not belong 
to the House of Commons ; and therefore it follows 
that the House of Commons has not a power of inca- 

I know not the origin of the House of Commons, 
but am very sure that it did not create itself; the 
electors wfcx-e prior to the elected, whose rights origi- 
nated either from the people at large, or from some 
other form of legislature, which never could intend 
for the chosen a power of superseding the choosers. 

If you have not a power of declaring an incapacity 
simply bj the mere act of declaring it, it is evident to 
the most ordinary reason you cannot have a right of 
expulsion, inferring, or rather including, an incapaci- 
ty. For as the law, when it gives any direct right, 
gives also as necessary incidents all the means of ac- 
quiring the possession of that right, so, where it does 
not give a right directly, it refuses all the means by 
which such a right may by any mediums be exercised, 
or in effect bo indirectly acquired. Else it is very 
obvious t!mt the intention of the law in refusing that 
right might bo entirely frustrated, and the whole 
power of the legislature baffled. If there be no cer- 
tain, invariable rule of eligibility, it were better to got 
simplicity, if certainty is not to be had, and to resolve 
all the franchises of the subject into this one short 
proposition, — the will and pleasure of the House of 

The argument drawn from the courts of law apply- 
ing the principles of law to new cases as they emerge 
is altogether frivolous, inapplicable, and arises from a 
total ignorance of the bounds between civil and crim 
inal jurisdiction, and of the separate maxims that 

V01» Til. 





■ I 





govern these two proTinces of law, that are eternally 
separate. Undoubtedly the courts of law, where a 
new case comes before them, as they do every hour 
then, that there may be no defect in justice, call in 
similar principles, and the example of the nearest de- 
termination, and do everything to draw the law to as 
near a conformity to general equity and right reason 
us they can bring it with its being a fixed principle. 
Bonijudicia est ampliare justitiam, — that is, to make 
open and liberal justice. But in criminal matters 
this parity of reason and these analogies ever have 
been and ever ought to be shunned. 

Whatever is incident to a court of judicature is 
necessary to the House of Commons as judging in 
elections. But a power of making incapacities is not 
necessary to a court of judicature : therefore a power 
of making incapacities is not necessary to the House 
of Commons. 

Incapacity, declared by whatever authority, stands 
upon two principles : first, an incapacity arising from 
tlie supposed incongruity of two duties in the com- 
monwealth ; secondly, an incapacity arising from un- 
fitness by infirmity of nature or the criminality of 
conduct. As to the first class of incapacities, thoy 
have no hardship annexed to them. The persons so 
incapacitated are paid by one dignity for wliat they 
a,bandon in another, and for the most part the situa- 
tion arises from tlioir own choice. But as to the 
second, arising from an unfitness not fixed by Na- 
ture, but superinduced by some positive acts, or aris- 
ing from honorable motives, such as an occasional 
personal disability, of all things it ouglit to be de- 
fined by the fixed rule of law, what Lord Coke calls 
tlie golden metwaud of the law, and not by the 



crooked cord of discretion. Whatever is general is 
better borne. We take our common lot witli men of 
the same description. But to be selected and marked 
out by a particular brand of unworthiness among our 
fellow-citizens is a lot of all others the hardest to 
be borne, and consequently is of all others that act 
which ought only to be trusted to the legislature, as 
not only legislative in its nature, but of all parts of 
legislature the most odious. The question is over, 
if this is shown not to be a legislative act. 

But what is very usual and xtural is, to corrupt 
judicature into legislature. On this point it is prop- 
er to inquire whether a court of judicature which de- 
cides without appeal has it as a necessary incident of 
such judicature, that wliatever it decides is de jure 
law. Nobody will, I hope, assert this ; because the 
direct consequence would be the entire extinction 
of the difiference between true and false judgments. 
For if the judgment makes the law, and not the law 
directs the judgment, it is impossible there should be 
such a thing as an illegal judgment given. 

But instead of standing upon this ground, they 
introduce another question wholly foreign to it: 
Whether it ought not to be submitted to as if it were 
law ? And then the question is, — By the Constitu- 
tion of this country, what degree of submission is due 
to the authoritative acts of a limited power ? This 
question of submission, determine it how you please, 
has nothing to do in this discussion and in this 
House. Here it is not, how long the people are 
bound to tolerate the illegality of our judgments, but 
whether we have a right to substitute our occasional 
opinion in the place of law, so as to deprive tlie citi- 
zen of his franchise 






May 8, 1780. 


■I : 



IT is always to be lamented, when men are dri - 
to search mto the foundations of the common- 
wealth. It is certainly necessary to resort to the 
theory of your government, whenever you propose 
any alteration in the frame of it, — whether that 
alteration means the revival of some former anti- 
quated and forsaken constitution of state, or the in- 
troduction of some new improvement in the coairaou- 
wealth. The object of our deliberation is, to promote 
the good purposes for which elections have been in- 
stituted, and to prevent their inconveniences. If we 
thought frequent elections attended with no incon- 
venience, or with but a trifling inconvenience, the 
strong overruling principle of the Constitution would 
sweep us like a torrent towards them. But your 
remedy is to bo suited to your disease, your pres- 
ent disease, and to your whole disease. That man 
thinks much too hij^hly, and therefore he thinks 
weakly and delusively, of any contrivance of hu- 
man wisdom, who believes that it can make any 
sort of approach to perfection. There is not, there 
never was, a principle of government under heaven, 
that does not, in the very pursuit of the good it 
proposes, naturally and inevitably lead into some 
inconvenience which makes it absolutely necessary 
to counterwork and weaken the application of that 
arst principle itself, and to abandon something of 







■ 2.2 



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Rochester. New York 14609 USA 

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the extent of the advantage you proposed by it, in 
order to prevent also the inconveniences which have 
arisen from the instrument of all the good you had 
in view. 

To govern according to the sense and agreeably to 
the interests of the people is a great and glorious 
object of government. This object cannot bo ob- 
tained but through the medium of popular election ; 
and popular election is a mighty evil. It is such 
and so great an evil, that, though there are few na- 
tions whose monarchs were not originally elective, 
very few are now elected. They are the distempers 
of elections that have destroyed all free states. To 
cure these distempers is difficui *■, if not impossible ; 
the only thing, therefore, left to save the common- 
wealth is, to prevent their return too frequently. The 
objects in view are, to have Parliaments as frequent 
as they can be without distracting them in the prose- 
cution of public business: on one hand, to secure 
their dependence upon the people; on the other, 
to give them that quiet in their minds and that 
ease in their fortunes as to enable them to perform 
the most arduous and most painful duty in the world 
with spirit, with efficiency, with independency, and 
with experience, as real public counsellors, not as 
the canvassers at a perpetual election. It is wise 
to compass as many good ends as possibly you can, 
and, seeing there are inconveniences on both sides, 
with benefits on both, to give up a part of the bene- 
fit to soften the inconvenience. The perfect cure is 
impracticable ; because the disorder is dear to those 
from whom alone the cure can possibly be derived. 
The utmost to be done is to palliate, to mitigate, to 
respite, to put off the evil day of the Constitution 


to its latest possible hour, — and may it be a very 
late one! 

This bill, I fear, would precipitate one of two con- 
sequences, — I know not which most likely, or which 
most dangerous : either that the crown, by its con- 
stant, stated power, influence, and revenue, would 
wear out all opposition in ( ctions, or that a vio- 
lent and furious popular spirit would arise. I must 
see, to satisfy me, the remedies ; I must see, from 
their operation in the cure of the old evil, and in 
the cure of those new evils which are inseparable 
from all remedies, how they balance each other, and 
wliat is the total result. The excellence of mathe- 
matics and metaphysics is, to have but one thing 
before you ; but he forms the best judgment in all 
moral disquisitions who has the greatest number 
and variety of considerations in one view before him, 
and can take them in with the best possible con- 
sideration of the middle results of all. 

We of the opposition, who are not friends to the 
bill, f^ive this pledge at least of our integrity and 
sincerity to the people, — that in our situation of 
systematic opposition to the present ministers, in 
which all our hope of rendering it effectual depends 
upon popular interest and favor, we will not flatter 
them by a surrender of our uninfluenced judgment 
and opinion ; we give a security, that, if ever we 
should be in another situation, no flattery to any 
other sort of power and influence would induce us 
to act against the true interests of the people. 

All are agreed that Parliaments should not be per- 
petual ; the only question is. What is the most con- 
venient time for their duration? — on which there are 
three opinions. We are agreed, too, that the term 

Ff jl 


4< I 



ought not to be chosen most likelj in its operation 
to spread corruption, and to augment the already 
overgrown influence of the crown. On these prin- 
ciples I mean to debate the question. It is easy to 
pretend a zeal for liberty. Those who think them- 
selves not likely to be incumbered with the per- 
formance of their promises, either from their known 
inability or total indifference about the performance, 
never fail to entertain the most lofty ideas. They 
are certainly the most specious ; and they cost them 
neither reflection to fi-ame, nor pains to modify, nor 
management to support. The task is of another na- 
ture to those who mean to promise nothing that it is 
not ill their intention, or may possibly be in their 
power to perform, — to those who are bound and 
principled no more to delude the understandings 
than to violate the liberty of their fellow-subjects. 
Faithful watchmen we ought to be over the rights 
and privileges of the people. But our duty, if we 
are qualified for it as we ought, is to give them in- 
formation, and not to receive it from them: we are 
not to go to school to them, to learn the principles of 
law and government. In doing so, we should not 
dutifully serve, but we should basely and scandalous- 
ly betray the people, who are not capable of this ser- 
vice by nature, nor in any instance called to it by the 
Constitution. I reverentially look up to the opinion 
of the people, and with an awe that is almost super- 
stitious. I should be ashamed to show my face before 
them, if I changed my ground as they cried up or 
cried down men or things or opinions, — if I wavered 
and shifted about with every change, and joined in 
it or opposed as best answered any low interest or 
passion, — if I held them up hopes which I ' lew I 



never intended, or promised what I well knew I 
could not perform. Of all these things they are 
perfect sovereign judges without appeal ; but as to 
the detail of particular measures, or to any general 
schemes of policy, they have neither enough of spec- 
ulation ir» the closet nor of experience in business to 
decide upon it. They can well see whether we are 
tools of a court or their honest servants. Of that 
they can well judge, — and I wish that they always 
exercised their judgment ; but of the particular mer- 
its of a measure I have other standards 

That the frequency of elections proposed by this 
bill has a tendency to increase the power and consid- 
eration of the electors, not lessen corruptibility, I do 
most readily allow: so far it is desirable. This is 
what it has: I will tell you now what it has not. 
1st. It has no sort of tendency to increase their in- 
tegrity and public spirit, unless an increase of power 
has an operation upon voters in elections, that it has 
in no other situation in the world, and upon no other 
part of mankind. 2nd. This bill has no tendency to 
limit the quantity of influence in the crown, to ren- 
der its operation more difficult, or to counteract that 
operation which it cannot prevent in any way what- 
soever. It has its full weight, its full range, and its 
uncontrolled operation on the electors exactly as it 
had before. 3rd. Nor, thirdly, does it abate the in- 
terest or inclination of ministers to apply that influ- 
ence to the electors: on the contrary, it renders it 
much more necessary to them, if they seek to have 
a majority in Parliament, to increase the means of 
that influence, and redouble their diligence, and to 
sharpen dexterity in the application. The \Miole ef- 
fect of the bill is, therefore, the removing the appli- 




cation of some part of the influence from the elected 
to the electors, and further to strengthen and extend 
a court interest already great and powerful in bor- 
oughs: here to fix their magazines and places of 
arms, and thus to muke theiu the principal, not the 
secoudary, theatre of their manoeuvres for securing 
a determined majority in Parliament. 

I believe nobody will deny that the electors are 
corruptible. They are men, — it is saying nothing 
worse of them ; many of them are but ill informed 
in their minds, many feeble in their circumstances, 
easily overreached, easily seduced. K they are many, 
the wages of corruption are the lower ; and would to 
God it were not rather a contemptible and hypocriti- 
cal adulation than a charitable sentiment, to say that 
there is already no debaucliery, no corruption, no 
Inibery, no perjury, no blind ftiry and interested fac- 
tion among the electors in many parts of this king- 
dom ! — nor is it surprising, or at all blamable, in 
that class of private men, when they see their neigh- 
bors aggrandized, and themselves poor and virtuous 
without that ^clat or dignity which attends men iu 
higher situations. 

But admit it were true that the great mass of the 
elector"^ were too vast an object for court influence to 
grasp or extend to, and that in despair they must 
abandon it; he must be very ignorant of the state 
of every popular interest, wlio does not know that in 
all the corporations, all the open boroughs, indeed in 
every district of the kingdom, there is some leading 
man, some agitator, some wealthy merchant or con- 
siderable manufacturer, some active attorney, some 
popular preacher, some money-lender, &c., <fec., who 
is followed by the whole flock. This is the style of 
all free countries. 


Mnltnm in Fabii Talet hie, valet ille Vellnft; 
Cailibet hie fasces dabit, eripietqne cnrule. 

These spirits, each of which informs and governs his 
own little orb, are neither so many, nor so little pow- 
erful, nor so incorruptible, but that a minister may, 
as he does frequently, find means of gaining them, 
and through them all their followers. To establish, 
therefore, a very general influence among electors 
will no more bo found an impracticable project than 
to gain an undue influence over members of Parlia- 
ment. Therefore I am apprehensive that this bill, 
though it shifts the place of the disorder, does by no 
means relieve the Constitution. I went through al- 
most every contested election in the beginning of this 
Parliament, and acted u,s a manager in very many of 
them ; by which, though as at a school of pretty severe 
and rugged discipline, I came to have some degree 
of instruction concerning the means by which Parlia- 
mentary interests are in general procured anr 

Theory, I know, would suppose that every general 
election is to the representative a day of judgment, 
in which he appears before his constituents to account 
for the use of the talent with which they intrusted 
him, and for the improvement he has made of it for 
the public advantage. It would be so, if every cor- 
ruptible representative were to find an erVightened 
and incorruptible constituent. But the practice and 
knowledge of the world will not suffer us to be igno- 
rant that the Constitution on paper is one thing, and 
in fact and experience is another. "We must know 
that the candidate, instead of trusting at his election 
to the testimony of his behavior in Parliament, must 
bring the testimony of a large sum of money, the ca- 



pacity of liberal expense in entertainments, the power 
of serving and obliging the rulers of corporations, 
of winning over the popular leaders of political clubs, 
associations, and neighborhoods. It is ten thousand 
times more necessary to show himself a man of power 
than a man of integrity, in almost all the elections 
with which I have been acquainted. Elections, there- 
fore, become a matter of heavy expense ; and if con- 
tests are frequent, to many they will become a matter 
of an expense totally ruinous, which no fortunes can 
bear, but least of all the landed fortunes, incum- 
bered as they often, indeed as they mostly are, with 
debts, with portions, with jointures, and tied up in 
the hands of the possessor by the limitations of set- 
tlement. It is a material, it is in my opinion a last- 
ing consideration, in all the questions concerning 
election. Let no one think the charges of elections 
a trivial matter. 

The charge, therefore, of elections ought never to 
be lost sight of in a question concerning their fre- 
quency ; because the grand object you seek is inde- 
pendence. Lidependence of mind will ever be more 
or less influenced by independence of fortune ; and if 
every three years the exhausting sluices of entertain- 
ments, drinkings, open houses, to say nothing of 
bribery, are to be periodically drawn up cind re- 
newed, — if government favors, for which now, in 
some shape or other, llie whole race of men are can- 
didates, are to be called for upon every occasion, I 
see that private fortunes will be washed away, and 
every, even to the least, trace of independence borne 
down by the torrent. I do not seriously think this 
Constitution, even to the wrecks of it, could survive 
five triennial elections. If you aie to fight the batti 


you must put on the armor of the mhnstry, you must 
call in the public to the aid of private money. The 
expense of the last election has been computed (and 
I am persuaded that it has not been overrated) at 
1,500,000?., — tliree shillings in the pound more in 
[than ? ] the land-tax. About the close of the last Par- 
liament and the beginning of this, several agents for 
boroughs went about, and I remember ,?ell that it was 
in every one of their mouths, " Sir, your election will 
co!=* you three thousand pounds, if you are independ- 
' the ministry supports you, it may bo done 
,.;d perhaps for less." And, indeed, the thing 
.f. Where a living was to be got for one, a 
c^u-^^ssiou ?: the army for another, a lift in the navy 
for a third, and custom-house offices scattered about 
without measure or number, who doubts brt money 
may be saved? The Treasury may even add money: 
but, indeed, it is superfluous. A gentleman of two 
thousand a year, who meets another of the same for- 
tune, fights with equal arms ; but if to one of the 
candidates you add a thousand a year in places for 
himself, and a power of giving away as much among 
others, one must, or there is no truth in arithmetical 
demonstration, ruin his adversary, if he is to meet 
liim and to fight with him every third year. It will 
be said I do not allow for the operation of character : 
but I do ; and I know it will have its weight in most 
elections, — perhaps it may be decisive in some ; but 
there are few in which it will prevent great expenses. 
The destruction of independent fortunes will be 
the consequence on the part of the candidate. Wliat 
will be the consequence of triennial corruption, trien- 
nial drunkenness, triennial idleness, triennial lawsuits, 
litigations, prosecutions, triennial frenzy, — of society 



r >Bt 



= 'f 


dissolved, industry i-terrupted, mined, — of those 
personal liatreds that will never bo Bu.cred to fofteu, 
those animosities and fouds which will be rendered 
immortal, those quarrels which are never to b'> 
appeased, — morals vitiated and gangrened to tlio 
vitals ? I tliink no stable and useful advantages 
were ever made by the money got at elections by the 
voter, but all he gets is doubly lost to the public : it 
is money given to diminish the general stock of the 
community, which is in the industry of the subject. 
I am sure that it is a good while before he or his 
family settle again to their business. Their heads 
will never cool ; the temptations of elections will be 
forever glittering before their eyes. They will all 
grow politicians; every one, quitting his business, 
will choose to enrich himself by his vote. They will 
all take the gauging-rod; new places will be made 
for them ; they will run to the custom-house quay ; 
their looms and ploughs will be deserted. 

So was Rome destroyed by the disorders of contin- 
ual elections, though those of Rome were sober disor- 
ders. They had nothing but faction, bribery, bread, 
and stage-plays, to debauch them: we have the ia- 
flamraation of liquor superadded, a fury hotter than 
any of them. There the contest was only between 
citizen and citizen : here you have the contests of am- 
bitious citizens of one side supported by the crown to 
oppose to the efforts ( let it be so) of private and un- 
supported ambition on the other. Yet Rome was de- 
stroyed by the frequency and charge of elections, and 
the monstrous expense of an unremitted courtship to 
the people. I think, therefore, the in^Iopendent can- 
didate and elector may each be destroyed by it, the 
whole body of the community be an infinite sufferer, 
and a vicious ministry the only gainer. 


Gentlemen, I know, feel the weight of this argU' 
ment; tlicj agree, that this would be the conse- 
quence of more frequent elections, if things were to 
continue as thej are. But they think the greatness 
and frequency of the evil would itself be a remedy 
for it, — that, sitting but for a short time, the mem- 
ber would not find it worth while to make such vast 
expenses, while tht fear of their constituents will hold 
them the more effectually to their duty. 

To 1 answer, that experience is full against 

them. lis is no new thing ; we have had triennial 
Parliaments ; at no period of time were seats more 
eagerly contested. The expenses of elections ran 
higher, taking the state of all charges, than they do 
now. The expense of entertainments was such, tliat 
an act, equally severe and ineffectual, was made 
against it ; every monument of the time bears wit- 
ness of the expense, and most of the acts against cor- 
ruption in elections were then made ; all the writers 
talked of it and lamnted it. Will any one think 
that a corporation wiu be contented with a bowl of 
punch or a piece of beef the less, because elections 
are every three, instead of c. ery seven years ? Will 
they change their wine for ale, because they are to 
get more ale three years hence? Don't thinli: it. 
Will they make fewer demands for the advantages of 
patronage in favors and offices, because their mem- 
ber is brought more under their power? We have 
not only our own historical experience in England 
upon this subject, but we have the experience coexist- 
ing with us in Ireland, where, since their Parliament 
has been shortened, the expense of elections has been 
so far from being lowered, that it has been very near 
doubled. Formerly they sat for the king's life ; the 

YOL. Til. 6 




1 1 1 




on. '"rjr charge of a seat in Parliament was then 
fifteen hundred pounds. They now sit eight years, 
four sRssiuns ; it is now twenty-five hundred pounds, 
and upwards. Tiio spirit of emulation has also been 
extremely increased, and all who are acquainted with 
the tone of that country have no doubt tiiat the spir- 
it is still growing, that new candidates will take the 
field, that the contests will be more violent, and the 
expenses of elections larger than ever. 

It never can bo otherwise. A seat in this House, 
for good purposes, for bad purposes, for no purposes 
at all, (except the mere consideration derived from 
beuig concerned in the public counsels,) will ever be 
a first-rate object of ambition in England. Ambi- 
tion is no exact calculator. Avarice itself does not 
calculate strictly, when it games. One thing is cer 
tain, — that in this politic '^ game the great lottery 
of power is that in*) Wi....i men will purchase with 
millions of chances against them. In Turkey, where 
the place, whore the Ibrtune, where the head itself 
a; so insecure that scarcely any have died in their 
beds for ages, so that the bowstring is the natural 
death of bashaws, yet in no country is power and 
distinction (precarious enough, God knows, in all) 
sought for witli such boundless avidity, — as if the 
value of place was enlianced by the danger and inse- 
curity of its tenure. Nothing will ever make a seat 
in this House not an object of desire to numbers by 
any means or at any charge, but the depriving it of 
all power and all dignity. This would do it. This 
is tlie true and only nostrum for that purpose. But 
an House of Commons without power and without 
dignity, either in itself or in its members, is no 
House of Co'^'xions for the purposes of this Constitu- 




But thoy will bo afraid to act ill, if thoy know that 
the day o*' thoir account is always n(!ar. 1 wish it 
were true ; Imt it is not : hero again wo liuvo expc- 
rienco, and cxperieuco is against us. Tiio tli>tonipop 
of tliis ago is a poverty of spirit and of gonius : it is 
trifling, it is futile, worse than ignorant, superficially 
taught, with the politics and morals of girls at a 
hoarding-school rather than of men and statesmen : 
but it is not yet desj)erately wicked, . so scanda- 
lously venal as in former times. Did not a triennial 
Parliament give up the national dignity, apprno the 
peace of Utreciit, and almost give up every ilu:"' c-Iso, 
in taking every step to defeat the P''otostant ici'.es- 
sion? Was not the Constitution s^' •■' by tlios.s *ho 
had no election at all to go to, the Lords, becaiue the 
court applied to electors, and l»y various means car- 
ried tliem from their true interests, so that the Tory 
ministry had a majority without an application to 
a single member ? Now as to the conduct of tho 
members, it was then far from pure and independent. 
Bribery was infinitely more flagrant. A predecessor 
of yours, Mr. Ppeakerj put the question of his own 
expulsion for bribery. Sir William Musgrave was a 
wise man, n grave man, an independent mar, a man 
of good fortune and go'^'^ family ; however, he carried 
on, while in opposit". •» traffic, a sliameful traffic, 
with the ministry. Bisfiop Burnet knew of six thou- 
sand pounds which he had received at one payment. 
I believe the payment of sums in hard money, plain, 
naked bribery, is rare amongst us. It was then far 
from uncommon. 

A triennial was near ruining, a septennial Parlia- 
ment saved your Constitution ; nor, perhaps, have 
you ever known a more flourishing period, for the 




union of national prosperity, dignity, and liberty, 
than the sixty years you have passed under that 
constitution of Parliament. 

The shortness of time in which they are to reap 
the profits of iniquity is far from checking the avid- 
ity of corrupt men ; it renders them infinitely more 
ravenous. They rush violently and precipitately on 
their object ; they lose all regard to decorum. The 
moments of profits are precious ; never are men so 
wicked as during a general mortality. It was so in 
the great plague at Athens, every symptom of which 
(and this its worse symptom amongst the rest) is 
so finely related by a great historian of antiquity. 
It was so in the plague of London in 1665. It ap- 
pears in soldiers, sailors, &c. Whoever would con- 
trive to render the life of man much shorter than 
it is would, I am satisfied, find the surest receipt for 
increasing the wickedness of our nature. 

Thus, in my opinion, the shortness of a triennial 
sitting would have the following ill eflfects : It would 
make the member more shamelessly and shockingly 
corrupt; it would increase his dependence on tliose 
who could best support him at his election ; it would 
wrack and tear to pieces the fortunes of those who 
stood upon their own fortunes and their private in- 
terest; it would make the electors infinitely more 
venal; and it would make the whole body of the 
people, who are, whether they have votes or not, 
concerned in elections, more lawless, more idle, more 
debauched ; it would utterly destroy the sobriety, the 
industry, the integrity, the simplicity of all the peo- 
ple, and undermine, I am much afraid, the deepest 
and best-laid foundations of the commonwealth. 

Those who have spoken and written upon this sub- 



ject without doors do not so much deny the proba- 
ble existence of these inconveniences in their meas- 
ure as they trust for their prevention to remedies 
of various sorts which they propose. First, a place 
bill. But if this will not do, as they fear it will not, 
then, they say, We will have a rotation, and a cer- 
tain niunber of you shall be rendered incapable of 
being elected for ten years. Then for the electors, 
they shall ballot. The members of Parliament also 
shall decide by ballot. A fifth project is the change 
of the present legal representation of the kingdom. 
On all this I shall observe, that it will be very un- 
suitable to your wisdom to adopt the project of a 
bill to which there are objections insuperable by any- 
thing in the bill itself, upon the hope that those ob- 
jections may be removed by subsequent projects, 
every one of which is full of difficulties of its own, 
and which are all of them very essential alterations 
in the Constitution. This seems very irregular and 
unusual. If anything should make this a very doubt- 
ful measur^;, what can make it more so than that 
in the opinion of its advocates it would aggravate 
all our old inconveniences in such a manner as to 
require a total alteration in the Constitution of the 
kingdom ? If the remedies are proper in triennial, 
they will not be less so in septennial elections. Let 
us try them first, — see how the House relishes them, 
— see how they will operate in the nation, — and 
then, having felt your way, and prepared against 
these inconveniences .... 

The honorable gentleman sees that I respect the 
principle upon which he goes, as well as his inten- 
tions and his abilities. He will believe that I do not 
diflfer from him wantonly and on trivial grounds. 




He is very sure that it was not his embracing one 
way which determined me to take the other. I have 
not in newspapers, to derogate from his fair fame 
with the nation, printed the first rude sketch of his 
bill with ungenerous and invidious comments. 1 
have not, in conversations industriously circulated 
about the town, and talked on the benches of this 
House, attributed his conduct to motives low and 
unworthy, and as groundless as they are injurious. 
/ do not aflFect to be frightened with this proposi- 
tion, as if some hideous spectre had started from 
heli, which was to be sent back again by every form 
of exorcism and every kind of incantation. I invoke 
no Acheron to overwhelm him in the whirlpools of 
its muddy gulf. I do not tell the respectable mover 
and seconder, by a perversion of their sense and ex- 
pressions, that their proposition halts between the 
ridiculous and the dangerous. / am not one of 
those who start up, three at a time, and fall upon 
and strike at him with so much ecgerness that our 
daggers hack one another in his sides. My honor- 
able friend has not brought down a spirited imp of 
chivalry to win the first achievement and blazon of 
arms on his milk-white shield in a field listed against 
him, — nor brought out the generous offspring of 
lions, and said to them, — " Not against that side of 
the forest ! beware of that ! — here is the prey, where 
you are to fasten your paws ! " — and seasoning his 
unpractised jaws with blood, tell him, — "This is 
the milk for which you are to thirst hereafter!" 
We furnish at his expense no holiday, — nor sus- 
pend hell, that a crafty Ixion may have rest from 
his wheel, — nor give tlie common adversary (if he 
be a common adversary) reason to say, — "I would 



have put in my word to oppose, but the eagerness of 
your allies in your social war was such that I could 
not break in upon you." I hope he sees and feels, 
and that every member sees and feels along with 
him, the difference between amicable dissent and 
civil discord. 








! S 

1 ■ ». / 






HAT 7, 1783, 















MR. SPEAKER, — Wo have now discovered, at 
the close of the eighteenth century, that the 
Constitution of England, which for a series of ages 
had been the proud distinction of this country, al- 
ways the admiration and sometimes the envy of the 
wise and learned in every other nation, — we have 
discovered that this boasted Constitution, in the most 
boasted part of it, is a gross imposition upon the un- 
derstanding of mankind, an ins':lt to their feelings, 
and acting by contrivances destructive to the best and 
most valuable interests of the people. Our political 
architects have taken a survey of tlie fabric of the 
British Constitution. It is singular that they report 
nothing against the crown, nothing against the lords : 
but in the House of Commons everything is unsound ; 
it is ruinous in every part ; it is infested by the dry 
rot, and ready to tumble about our ears without their 
immediate help. You know by the faults they find 
what are their ideas of the alteration. As all govern- 
ment stands upon opinion, they know that tlie way 
utterly to destroy it is to remove that opinion, to take 
away all reverence, all confidence from it ; and then, 
at the first blast of public discontent and popular tu- 
mult, it tumbles to the ground. 

In considering this question, they who oppose it 
oppose it on different grounds. One is in the nature 
of a previous question : that some alterations may be 








expedient, but thu^ this is not the time for making 
them. The other is, that no essential alterations are 
at all wanting, and that neither now nor at any time 
is it prudent or safe to be meddling with the funda- 
mental principles and ancient tried usages of our 
Constitution, — that our representation is as nearly 
perfect as the necessary imperfection of human affairs 
and of human creatures will suffer it to be, — and 
that it is a subject of prudent and honest use and 
thankful enjoyment, an <? not of captious criticism and 
rash experiment. 

On the other side there are two parties, who pro- 
ceed on two grounds, in my opinion, as they state 
them, utterly irreconcilable. The one is juridical, 
the other political. The one is in the nature of a 
claim of right, on the supposed rights of man as 
man : this party desire the decision of a suit. The 
other ground, as far as I can divine what it directly 
means, is, that the representation is not so politically 
framed as to answer the theory of its institution. As 
to the claim of right, the meanest petitioner, the most 
gross and ignorant, is as good as the best: in some 
respects his claim is more favorable, on account of 
his ignorance ; his weakness, his poverty, and dist^-iss 
only add to his titles; he sues in forma pauperis ; ae 
ought to be a favorite of the court. But when the 
other ground is taken, when the question is political, 
when a new constitution is to be made on a sound 
theory of government, then the presumptuous pride 
of didactic ignorance is to be excluded from the coun- 
sel in this high and arduous matter, which often bids 
defiance to the experience of the wisest. The first 
claims a personal representation ; the latter rejects 
it with scorn and fervor. The language of the first 




party is plain and intelligible ; they who plead an ab- 
solute right cannot be satisfied with anything sliort 
of personal representation, because all natural rights 
must be the rights of individuals, as by nature there 
is no such thing as politic or corporate personality : 
all these ideas are mere fictions of law, they are crea- 
tures of voluntary institution ; men as men are in- 
dividuals, and nothing else. They, therefore, who 
reject the principle of natural and personal repre- 
sentation are essentially and eternally at variance 
with those who claim it. As to the first sort of re- 
formers, it is ridiculous to talk to them of the Brit- 
ish Constitution upon any or upon all of its bases : 
for they lay it down, that every man ought to gov- 
ern, himself, and that, where he cannot go, himself, 
he must send his representative ; that all other gov- 
ernment is usurpation, and is so far from having a 
claim to our obedience, it is not only our right, but 
our duty, to resist it. Nine tenths of the reformers 
argue thus, — that is, on the natural right. 

It is impossible not to make some reflection on 
the nature of this claim, or avoid a comparison be- 
tween the extent of the principle and the p/esent 
object of the demand. If this claim be fou'ided, it 
is clear to what it goes. The House of Commons, 
in that light, undoubtedly, is no representative of 
the people, as a collection of individuals. Nobody 
pretends it, nobody can justify such an assertion. 
When you come to examine into this claim of right, 
founded on the right of self-government in each 
individual, you find the thing demanded infinitely 
short of the principle of the demand. What! one 
third only of the legislature, and of the government 
no share at all ? What sort of treaty of partition 







i , 

mi ■ 

' ■. 
1 'i ' 
V . ( 

is this for thoso who hare an inherent right to the 
whole ? Give them all they ask, and your grant is 
still a cheat : for how comes only a third to bo their 
younger-children's fortune in this scttlomcnt ? How 
canio they neither to have the choice of kings, or 
lords, or judges, or generals, or admirals, or bisliops, 
or priests, or ministers, or justices of peace ? Wiiy, 
what have you to answer in favor of the prior rights 
of the crown and peerage but this: Our Constitu- 
tion is a prescriptive constitution ; it is a consti- 
tufion whose sole authority is, that it has existed 
time out of mind ? It is settled in these two por- 
tions against one, legislatively, — and in the wliole 
of the judicature, the whole of the federal capacity, 
of the executive, the prudential, and the fniancial 
administration, in one alone. Nor was your House 
of Lords and ^.ho prerogatives of the crown settled 
on any adjudication in favor of natural rights : for 
they could never be so partitioned. Your king, your 
lords, your judges, your juries, grand and little, all 
are prescriptive ; and what proves it is the disputes, 
not yet concluded, and never near becoming so, when 
any of them first originated. Prescription is the 
most solid of all titles, not only to property, but, 
wliich is to secure that property, to government. 
They harmonize with each other, and give mutual 
aid to one another. It is accompanied with another 
ground of authority in the constitution of the hu- 
man mind, presumption. It is a presumption in 
fiivor of any settled sclieme of government against 
any untried project, that a nation has long existed 
and flourished under it. It is a better presumption 
even of tiie choice of a nation, — far better than any 
sudden and temporary arrangement by actual elec- 




tion. Because a nation is not an idea only of local 
extent and individual momentary aggregation, but it 
is an idea of continuity which (extends in time as well 
as in numbers and in space. And this is a choice 
not of one day or one set of people, not a tumultu- 
ary and giddy choice ; it is a deliberate election of 
ages and of generations; it is a constitution mado 
by what is ten thousand times better tlian choice; 
it is made by tlie peculiar circumstances, occasions, 
tempers, dispositions, and moral, civil, and social 
habitudes of the people, which disclose themselves 
only in a long space of time. It is a vestment which 
accommodates itself to the body. Nor is prescrip- 
tion of government formed upon blind, unmeaning 
prejudicv'^. For man is a most unwise and a most 
wise being. The individual is foolisii ; tiio multi- 
tude, for the moment, is foolish, when they act with- 
out deliberation ; but tlio species is wise, and, when 
time is given to it, as a species, it almost always 
acts right. 

The reason for the crown as it is, for the lords 
as they are, is my reason for the commons as they 
are, the electors as they are. Now if tlie crown, and 
the lords, and the judicatures are all prescriptive, 
so is the House of Commons of the very same origin, 
and of no other. We and our electo- > their 

powers and privileges both made and •scribed 

by prescription, as mucli to the full ^ the other 
parts; and as such we have always claimed tliem, 
and on no other title. The House of Commons is 
a legislative body corporate by prescription, not made 
upon any given theory, but existing prescriptively, 
--just like the rest. This prescription has made 
it essentially what it is, an aggregate collection of 












three parts, knights, citizens, burgesses. The ques- 
tion is, whctlier this has been always so, since the 
House of Commons has taken its present shape and 
circumstances, and has been an essential operative 
part of the Constitution^ — which, I take it, it has 
been for at least five hundred years. 

This I resolve to myself in the affirmative: and 
then another question arises : — Whether this House 
stoiids firm upon its ancient foundations, and is not, 
by time and accidents, so declined from its perpcn- 
dicular as to want the hand of the wise and expe- 
rienced architects of the day to set it upright again, 
and to prop and buttress it up for duration ; — wheth- 
er it continues true to the principles upon which it 
has liitherto stood ; — whether this be de facto the 
constitution of the House of Commons, as it has been 
since the time that the House of Commons has with- 
out dispute become a necessary and an efficient part 
of the British Constitution. To ask whether a thing 
which }ias always been the same stands to its usual 
principle seems to me to be perfectly absurd : for how 
do you know the principles, but from the construc- 
tion? and if that remains the same, tlie principles 
remain the same. It is true that to say your Consti- 
tution is what it has been is no sufficient defence for 
those who say it is a bad constitution. It is an an- 
swer to thos*. rt ho say that it is a degenerate constitu- 
tion. To those who say it is a bad one, I answer. 
Look to its efTects. In all moral machinery, the 
moral results are its test. 

On what grounds do we go to restore our Consti- 
tution to what it has been at some given period, or to 
reform and reconstruct it upon principles more con- 
formable to a sound theory of government ? A pre- 





scriptive government, such as ours, never was the 
work of any legislator, never was mado upon any 
foregone theory. It seems to me a preposterous way 
of reasoning, and a perfect confusion of ideas, to take 
the theories which learned and speculative men nave 
made from that government, and then, supposing it 
made on those theories which were made from it, to 
accuse the government as not corresponding with 
them. I do not vilify theory and speculation: no. 
because that would be to vilify reason itself. Neqiie 
decipitur ratiOf neque decipit unquatn. No, — when- 
ever I speak against theory, I moan always a weak, 
erroneous, fallacious, unfounded, or imperfect theo- 
ry ; and one of the ways of discovering that it is a 
false theory is by comparing it with practice. This 
is the true touchstone of all th'"^ries whicli regard 
man and the affairs of men, — Does it suit his nature 
in general ? — does it suit his nature as modified by 
his ha'oits ? 

The more frequently this affair is discussed, the 
stronger the case appears to the sense and the feel- 
ings of mankind. I have no more drnbt than I en- 
tertain of my existence, that this very thing, which is 
stated as an horrible thing, is the means of the preser- 
vation of our Constitution whilst it lasts, — of curing 
it of many of the disorders which, attending every 
species of institution, would attmid the principle of 
an exact local representation, or a representation on 
the principle of numbers. If you reject personal rep- 
resentation, you are pushed upon expedience ; and 
then what they wish us to do is, to prefer their specu- 
lations on that subject to the happy experience of this 
country, of a g' jwing liberty and a growing prosperi- 
ty for five hundred years. Wliatever respect I have 

VOL m 7 






for their talents, this, for one, I will not do. Then 
what is the standard of expedience ? Expedience is 
that which is good for the community, and good for 
every individual in it. Now this expedience is the de- 
sideratum, to be sought either without the experience 
of means or with that experience. If without, as 
in case of the fabrication of a new commonwealtli, 
1 will hear the learned arguing what promises to 
be expedient ; but if we are to judge of a common- 
wealth actually existing, the first thing I inquire is, 
What has been found expedient or inexpedient? 
And I will not take their promise rather than the 
performance of the Constitution. 

.... But no, this was not the cause of the dis- 
contents. I went through most of the northern 
parts, — the Yorkshire election was then raging; 
the vear before, through most of the western coun- 
ties, — Bath, Bristol, Gloucester: not one word, ei- 
ther in the towns or country, on the subject of rep- 
resentation ; much on the receipt tax, something on 
Mr. Fox's ambition ; much greater apprehension of 
danger from thence than from want of representa- 
tion. One would think that the ballast of the ship 
was shifted with us, and that our Constitution had 
the gunwale under water. But can you fairly and 
distinctly point out what one evil or grievance has 
happened which you can refer to the representa- 
tive not following the opinion of his constituents? 
What one symptom do we find of this inequality? 
But it is not an arithmetical inequality with which 
e ought to trouble ourselves. If there be a moral, 
a political equality, this is the desideratum in our 
Constitution, and in every constitution in tlie world. 
Moral inequality is as between places and between 





classes. Now, I ask, what advantage do you fiud 
that the places which abound in representation pos- 
sess over others in which it is more scanty, in secu- 
rity for freedom, in security for justice, or in any one 
'of those means of procuring temporal prosperity and 
eternal happiness, the ends for which society was 
formed? Are the local interests of Cornwall and 
Wiltshire, for instance, their roads, canals, their pris- 
ons, their police, better than Yorkshi.'-o, Warwick- 
shire, or StaflFordshire ? Warwick has members : is 
Warwick or Stafford more opulent, happy, or free 
than Newcastle, or than Birmingham ? Is Wiltshire 
the pampered favorite, whilst Yorkshire, like the 
child of the bondwoman, is turned out to the desert ? 
This is like the unhappy persons who live, if they can 
be said to live, in the statical chair, — who are ever 
feeling their pulse, and who do not judge of health 
by the aptitude of the body to perform its functions, 
but by their ideas of what ought to be the true bal- 
ance between the several secretions. Is a committee 
of Cornwall, «fec., thronged, and the others deserted ? 
No. You have an equal representation, because you 
have men equally interested in the prosperity of the 
whole, who are involved in the general interest and 
the general sympathy; and, perhaps, these places 
furnishing a superfluity of public agents and adminis- 
trators, (whether in strictness they are representatives 
or not I do not mean to inquire, but they are agents 
and administrators,) they will stand clearer of local 
interests, passions, prejudices, and cabals than the 
others, and therefore preserve the balance of the 
parts, and with a more general view and a more 

steady hand than the rest 

In every political proposal we must not leave out 



I ■ 


1 . 


of the question the politi.'?.! yiews and object of the 
proposer; and these we discover, not by what he 
says, but by the principles he lays down. "I mean," 
says he, " a moderate and temperate reform : that is, 
I mean to do as little good as possible." If the Con- 
stitution be what you represent it, and there be no 
danger in the change, you do wrong not to make the 
reform commensurate to the abuse. Fine reformer, 
indeed ! generous donor ! What is the cause of this 
parsimony of the liberty which you dole out to the 
people ? Why all this limitation in giving blessings 
and benefits to mankind ? You admit that there is 
an extreme in liberty, which may be infinively nox- 
ious to those who are to receive it, and which in the 
end will leave them no liberty at all. I think so, too. 
They know it, and they feel it. The question is, 
then, What is the standard of that extreme ? What 
that gentleman, and the associations, or some parts 
of their phalanxes, think proper ? Then our liberties 
are in their pleasure ; it depends on their arbitrary 
will how far I shall be free. I will have none of that 
freedom. If, therefore, the standard of moderation 
be sought for, I will seek for it. Where? Not in 
their fancies, nor in my own : I will seek for it where 
I know it is to be found, — in the Constitution I actu- 
ally enjoy. Here it says to an encroaching prerog- 
ative, — " Your sceptre has its length ; you cannot 
add an hair to your head, or a gem to your crown, 
but what an eternal law has given to it." Here it 
says to an overweening peerage, — "Your pride finds 
banks that it cannot overflow " : here to a tumultu- 
ous and giddy people, — "There is a bound to the 
raging of the sea." Our Constitution is like our 
island, which uses and restrains its subject sea; in 




va'a the waves roar. In that Constitution, I know, 
and exultingly I feel, both that I am free, and that I 
am not free dangerously to myself or to others. I 
know that no power on earth, acting as I ought to 
do, can touch my life, my liberty, or my property. I 
have that inward and dignified consciousness of my 
own security and independence, which constitutes, 
and is the only thing which does constitute, the proud 
and comfortable sentiment of freedom in the human 
breast. I know, too, and I bless God for, my safe 
mediocrity : I know, that, if I possessed all the talents 
of the gentlemen on the side of the House I sit, and 
on the other, I cannot, by royal favor, or by p-'p i- 
lar delusion, or by oligarchical cabal, elevate myself 
above a certain very limited point, so as to endan- 
ger my own fall, or the niin of my country. I know 
there is an order that keeps things fast in their place : 
it is made to us, and we are made to it. Why not 
ask another wife, other children, another body, anoth- 
er mind ? 

The great object of most of these reformers is, to 
prepare the destruction of the Constitution, by dis- 
gracing and discrediting the House of Commons. 
For they think, (prudently, in my opinion,) that, 
if they can persuade the nation that the House of 
Commons is so constituted as not to secure the pub- 
lic liberty, not to have a proper connection with the 
public interests, so constituted as not either actually 
or virtually to be the representative of the people, it 
vill be easy to prove that a government composed of 
a monarchy, an oligarchy chosen by the crown, and 
sucn a House of Commons, whatever good can be in 
such a system, can by no means be a system of free 




I i 

The Constitution of England is never to have a 
quietus ; it is to be continually vilified, attacked, re- 
proached, resisted ; instead of being the hope and 
sure anchor in all storms, instead of being the means 
of redress to all grievances, itself is the grand griev- 
ance of the nation, our shame instead of our glorj. 
If the only specific plan proposed, individual personal 
representation, is directly rejected by the person who 
is looked on as the great support of this business, 
then the only way of considering it is a question of 
convenience. An honorable gentleman prefers the 
individual to the present. He therefore himself sees 
no middle term whatsoever, and therefore prefers, of 
what he sees, the individual : this is the only thing 
distinct and sensible that has been advocated. He 
has, then, a scheme, which is the individual repre- 
sentation, — he is not at a loss, not inconsistent, — 
which scheme the other right honorable gentleman 
reprobates. Now what does this go to, but to lead 
directly to anarchy ? For to discredit the only gov- 
ernment whicii he either possesses or can project, 
what is this but to destroy all government? and 
this is anarchy. My right honorable friend, in sup- 
porting this motion, disgraces his friends and justifies 
his enemies in order to blacken the Constitution of 
his country, even of that House of Commons which 
supported him. There is a diflFerence between a mor- 
al or political exposure of a public evil relative to tlie 
administration of government, whether in men or sys- 
tems, and a declaration of defects, real or supposed, 
in the fundamental constitution of your country. 
The first may be cured in the individual by the 
motives of religion, virtue, honor, fear, shame, or 
interest. Men may be made to abandon also false 







systems, by exposing their absurdity or mischievoug 
tendency to their own better thoughts, or to the con- 
tempt or indignation of the public ; and after all, if 
they should exist, and exist uncorrected, tliey only 
disgrace individuals as fugitive opmions. But it 
is quite otherwise with the frame and constitution 
of the state : if that is disgraced, patriotism is de- 
stroyed in its very source. No man has ever will- 
ingly obeyed, much less was desirous of defending 
with his blood, a mischievous and absurd scheme of 
government. Our first, our dearest, most compre- 
hensive relation, our country, is gone. 

It suggests melancholy reflections, in consequence 
of the strange course we have long held, that we are 
now no longer quarrellmg about the liaracter, or 
about the conduct of men, or the tei measures, 

but we are grown out of humor ;nth i .nglish Con- 
stitution itself: this is become the object of the ani- 
mosity of Englishmen. This Constitution in former 
days used to be the admiration and the envy of the 
world: it was the pattern for politicians, the theme 
of the eloquent, the meditation of the philosopher, in 
every part of the world. As to Englishmen, it was 
their pride, their consolation. By it they lived, for it 
they were ready to die. Its defects, if it had any, 
were r-'Hly covered by partiality, and partly borne 
by J ce. Now all its excellencies are forgot, its 

faul now forcibl,- lagged into day, exaggerated 

by every artifice of representation. It is despised 
and rejected of men, and every device and invention 
of ingenuity or idleness set up in opposition or in 
preference to it. It is to this humor, and it is to the 
measures growing out of it, that I set myself (I hope 
not alone) in the most determined opposition. Never 

\\ '■' 




ii '" 

M t'l 

I i 


I r 




before did we at any time in this country meet upon 
the theory of our frame of government, to sit in judg- 
ment on the Constitution of our country, to call it as 
a delinquent before us, and to accuse it of every de- 
fpot and every vice, — to see whether it, an object of 
our veneration, even our adoration, did or did not ac- 
cord with a preconceived scheme in the minds of cer- 
tain gentlemen. Cast your eyes on the journals of 
Parliament. It is for fear of losing the inestimable 
treasure we have that I do not venture to game it 
out of my hands for the vain hope of improving it. 
I look with filial reverence on the Constitution of my 
country, and never will cut it in pieces, and put it 
into the kettle of any magician, in order to boil it, 
with the puddle of their compounds, into youth and 
vigor. On the contrary, I will drive away such pre- 
tenders ; I will nurse its venerable age, and with le- 
nient arts extend a parent's breath. 

t u 





MABCH T,»n. 










.1* iti 

! « 





1HAVE always understood that a superintendence 
over the doctrines as well as the proceedings of 
the courts of justice was a principal object of the con- 
stitution of this House, — that you were to watch at 
once over the lawyer and the law, — that there should 
be an orthodox faith, as well as proper works : and I 
have always looked with a degree of reverence and 
admiration on this mode of superintendence. For, 
being totally disengaged from the detail of juridical 
practice, we come something perhaps the better qual- 
ified, and certainly much the better disposed, to as- 
sert the genuine principle of the laws, in which we 
can, as a body, have no other than an enlarged and 
a public interest. We have no common cause of a 
professional attachment or professional emulations to 
bias our minds ; we have no foregone opinions wliich 
from obstinacy and false point of honor we think our- 
selves at all events obliged to support. So that, with 
our own minds perfectly disengaged from the exer- 
cise, we may superintend the execution of the na- 
tional justice, which from this circumstance is better 
secured to the people than in any other country un- 
der heaven it can be. As our situation puts us in 
a proper condition, our power enables us to execute 
this trust. "We may, when we see cause of complaint, 
administer a remedy: it is in our choice by an ad- 
dress to remove an improper judge, by impeach meni 






before the peers to pursue to destruction a corrupt 
judge, or bj bill to assert, to explain, to enforce, or 
to reform the law, just as the occasion and necessity 
of the case shall guide us. We stand in a situation 
very honorable ♦o ourselves and very useful to our 
country, if we do not abuse or abandon the trust that 
is placed in us. 

The question now before you is upon the power of 
juries in prosecuting for libels. There are four opin- 
ions: — 1. That the doctrine as held by the courts 
is proper and constitutional, and therefore should not 
be altered ; 2. That it is neither proper nor consti- 
tutional, but that it will be rendered worse by your 
interference ; 3. That it is wrong, but that the on- 
ly remedy is a bill of retrospect ; 4. The opinion of 
those who bring in the bill, that the thing is wrong, 
but that it is enough to direct the judgment of the 
court in future. 

The bill brought in is for the purpose of asserting 
and securing a great object in the juridical constitu- 
tion of this kingdom, which, from a long series of 
practices and opinions in our judges, has in one point, 
and in one very essential point, deviated from the 
true principle. 

It is the very ancient privilege of the people of 
England, that they shall be tried, except in the 
known exception?, not by judges appointed by the 
crown, but by their own fellow-subjects, the peers of 
that county court at which they owe their suit and 
service ; and out of this principle the trial by juries 
has grown. This principle has not, that I can find, 
been contested in any case by any authority whatso- 
ever ; but there is one case in which, without directly 
contesting the principle, the whole substance, energy, 






and Tirtuo of tho privilege is taken out of it, — that 
is, iu tlio case of a trial by indictment or information 
for a libel. The doctrine in that case, laid down by 
several judges, amounts to this : that tho jury have 
no competence, where a libel is alleged, except to 
find the gross corporeal facts of the writing and the 
publication, together with the identity of the thinjrs 
and pennons to which it refers ; but that tho intent and 
the tendency of the work, in which intent and ten- 
dency the whole criminality consists, is tho solo and 
exclusive province of the judge. Thus having re- 
duced the jury to the cognizance of facts not in 
themselves presiunptively criminal, but actions neu- 
tral and indifferent, tho whole matter in which the 
subject has any concern or interest is taken out of 
the hands of the jury: and if the jury take more 
upon themselves, what they so take is contrary to 
the.'r duty ; it is no moral, but a merely natural pow- 
er, — the same by whici\ they may do any other im- 
proper act, tho same by which they may even preju- 
dice themselves with regard to any other part of the 
issue before tliem. Such is the matter, as it now 
stands in possession of your highest criminal courts, 
handed down to them from very respectable legal 
ancestors. If this can once be established hi tliis 
ease, the application in principle to other cases will 
be easy j,nd the practice will run upon a descent, 
until the progress of an encroaching jurisdiction (for 
it is in its nature to encroach, when once it has passed 
its limits) coming to confine the juries, case after case, 
to the corporeal fact, and to that alone, and excluding 
the intention of mind, the only source of merit and 
demerit, of rjward or punishment, juries become a 
dead letter iu the Constitution. 









■ I 

hi nMlfc 



For which reason it is high time to take this mat- 
ter into the considoratiuu of Parliament : and for 
that purpose it will be necessary to examine, first, 
whether there is anything in the peculiar nature of 
this crime that makes it necessary to exclude the jury 
from consideruig the intention in it, more than in 
others. So far from it, that I take it to be much Ic^s 
so from the analogy of other criminal c: •'», ^s'lure 
no such restraint is ordinarily put upon them. The 
act of homicide is primd facie criminal ; the inten- 
tion is afterwards to appear, for the jury to acquit or 
condemn. In burglary do they insist that tho jury 
have nothing to do but to find the taking of goods, 
' that, if they do, they must necessarily find the 
milty, and leave the rest to the judge, and that 
e nothing to do with the word felonice in the 
inuiciuient ? 

The next point is, to consider it as a question of 
constitutional policy: that is, whether the decision 
of the question of libel ought to be loft to the judges 
as a presumption of law, rather than to the jury as 
matter of popular judgment, — as the malice in the 
case of murder, the felony in the case of stealing. 
If the intent and tendency are not matters within the 
province of popular judgment, but legal and techni- 
cal conclusions formed upon general principles of 
law, let us see what they are. Certainly they are 
most unfavorable, indeed totally adverse, to the Con- 
stitution of this country. 

Here we must have recourse to analogies ; for wo 
cannot argue on ruled cases one way or the other. 
See the history. The old books, deficient in general 
in crown cases, furnish us with little on this head. 
As to the crime, in the very early Saxon law I see an 




ofTenco of this species, called folk-leasing, made a 
capital ofTuiico, but no very pruoiso dufiiiitiou of tiio 
crime, and no trial at all. See the statute of 8rd 
Edward I. cap. 34. The law of libels could not have 
arrived at a very early period in tliis country. It is 
ito wonder that wo find no vestige of any constitution 
from authority, or of any deductions from legal sci- 
ence, in our old books and records, upon that subject. 
Tlie statute of ScaiuJnlum Magnatum is tl'.c oldest tliat 
I know, and this goes but a little way in this sort of 
learning. Libelling is not the crime of an illiterate 
people. When they were thought no mean clerks 
who could read and write, when ho who could read 
and write was presumptively a person in holy orders, 
libels could not be general or d ingerous ; and scan- 
dals merely oral could spread little and must perish 
soon. Tf is writing, it is printing more emphatically, 
that imps calumny with those eagle-wings on wliieh, 
as the poet says, " immortal slanders fly." By the 
press they spread, they last, they leave tlio stuig in 
the wound. Printing was not known in England 
much earlier than the reign of Henry the Seventh, 
and hi the third year of that reign the court of Star- 
Ciiamber was established. The press and its enemy 
are nearly coeval. As no positive law against libels 
existed, they fell under the indefinite class of misde- 
meanors. For the trial of misdemeanors that court 
was instituted. Their tendency to produce riots and 
disorders was a main part of the charge, and was laid 
in order to give the court jurisdiction chiefly against 
libels. The o'^ence was new. Learning of their 
own upon the subject they had none ; and they were 
obliged to resort to the only emporium where it was 
to bo had, the Koman law. After the Star-Chambor 



i '^ 










was abolished in the 10th of Charles I., its authority 
indeed ceased, but lis maxims subsisted and survived 
it. The spirit of the Star-Cliamber has transmigrated 
and lived again ; and Westminster Hall was obliged 
to borrow from the Star-Chamber, for the same rea- 
sons as the Star-Chamber had borrowed from the 
Roman Forum, because thej had no law, statute, or 
tradition of their own. Thus the Eoman law took 
possession of our courts, — I mean its doctrine, not 
its sanctions : the severity of capital punishment was 
omitted, all the rest remained. The grounds of tiiese 
laws are just and equitable. Undoubtedly the good 
fame of every man ought to be under the protection 
of the laws, as well as his life and liberty and proper- 
ty. Good fame is an outwork that defends them all 
and renders them all valuable. The law forbids you 
to revenge ; when it ties up the hands of some, it 
ought to restrain the tongues of others. The good 
fame of government is the same ; it ought not to be 
traduced. This is necessary in all government ; and 
if opinion be support, what takes away this destroys 
that support : but the liberty of the press is necessary 
to this government. 

The wisdom, however, of government is of more 
importance the laws. I should study the temper 
of the people, before I ventured on actions of this 
kind. I would consider the whole of the prosecution 
of a libel of such importance as Junius, as one piece, 
as one consistent plan of operations : and I woxihl 
contrive it so, that, if I were defeated, I should not 
be disgraced, — that even my victory should not be 
more ignominious than my defeat ; I would so man- 
age, that the lowest in the predicament of guilt 
should not be the only one in punisliment. I would 






not inform against the mere vender of a collection of 
pamphlets. I would not put him to trial first, if I 
conld possibly avoid it. I would rather stand the 
consequences of my first error than carry it to a 
judgment that must disgrace my prosecution or tlio 
court. We ought to examine these things in a man- 
ner which becomes ourselves, and becomes the object 
of the inquiry, — not to examine into the most im- 
portant consideration which can come before us with 
minds heated with prejudice and filled with passions, 
with vain popular opinions and humors, and, when 
we propose to examine into the justice of others, to 
be unjust ourselves. 

An inquiry is wished, as the most effectual way of 
putting an end to the clamors and libels which are 
the disorder and disgrace of the times. For people 
remain quiet, they sleep secure, when they imagine 
that the vigilant eye of a censorial magistrate watches 
over all the proceedings of judicature, and that the 
sacred fire of an eternal constitutional jealousy, which 
is the guardian of liberty, law, and justice, is alive 
night and day, and burning in this House. But when 
the magistrate gives up his office and his duty, the 
people assume it, and they inquire too much and too 
irreverently, because they think their representatives 
do not inquire at all. 

We have in a libel, 1st, the writing ; 2nd, the com- 
munication, called by the lawyers the publication ; 
3rd, the application to persons and facts ; 4th, the 
intent and tendency; 5th, the matter, — diminution 
of fame. The law presumptions on all these are in 
the communication. No intent can make a defama- 
tory publication good, nothing can make it have a 
good tendency ; truth is not pleadable. Taken /wnrf- 








icalli/y the foundation of these law presumptions is 
not unjust; taken constitutionally, tliey are ruinous, 
and tend to the total suppression of all publication. 
If juries are confined to the fact, no writing which 
censures, however justly or however temperately, 
the conduct of administration, can be unpunished. 
Therefore, v he intent and tendency be left to tho 
judge, as 1 g ' conclut^ious growing from the fact, 
you may deptx J upon it you can have no public dis- 
cussion of a public measure ; which is a point which 
even those who are most offended with the licen- 
tiousness of the press (and it is very exorbitant, 
very provoking) will hardly contend for. 

So far as to the first opinion, — that the doctrine 
is right, and needs no alteration. 2nd. The next is, 
that it is wrong, but that we are not in a condi- 
tion to help it. I admit it is true that there are 
cases of a nature so delicate and complicated that an 
act of Parliament on the subject may become a mat- 
ter of great difficulty. It sometimes cannot define 
with exactness, because the subject-matter will not 
bear an exact definition. It may seem to take away 
everything which it does not positively estahUnh, and 
this might be inconvenient ; or it may seem, vice verad, 
to establish everytliing which it does not expressly take 
aivay. It may be more advisable to leave such mat- 
ters to the enlightened discretion of a judge, awed by 
a censorial House of Commons. But tlien it rests 
upon those who object to a legislative interposition to 
prove these inconveniences in the particular case be- 
fore tliem. For it would be a most dangerous, as 
it is a most idle and most groundless conceit, to 
assume as a general principle, that the rights and 
liberties of the bubject are impaired by the care and 



attention of the legislature to secure them. If so, 
very ill would the purchase of Magna Charta have 
merited tlie deluge of blood which was shed in order 
to have the body of English privileges defined by a 
positive written law. This charter, tlie inostimable 
monument of English freedom, so long tlie boast 
and glory of this nation, would have been at once 
an instrument of our servitude and a monument of 
our folly, ■ principle were true. Tlie thirty- 

four confir.: would have been only so many 

repetitions o ...eir absurdity, so many new links 
in tlie chain, and so many invalidations of their 

You cannot open your statute-book witliout seeing 
positive provisions relative to every riglit of the sub- 
ject. Tliis business of juries is the subject of not 
fewer tlian a dozen. To suppose that juries are 
something iuhate in the Constitution of Great Brit- 
ain, that they have jumped, like Minerva, out of the 
head of Jove in complete armor, is a weak fancy, sup- 
ported neither by precedent nor by reason. What- 
ever is most ancient and veneral)le in our Constitu- 
tion, royal prerogative, privileges of Parliament, rights 
of elections, authority of courts, juries, must have been 
modelled according to the occasion. I spare your pa- 
tience, and I pay a compliment to your understand- 
ing, in not attempting to prove that anything so 
elaborate and artifi, " 1 as a jury was not the work 
of chance, but a matter of institution, brought to its 
prosei^t state by the joint efforts of legislative author- 
ity and juridical prudence. It need not be ashamed 
of being (what in many parts of it, at least, it is) 
the offspring of an act of Parliament, unless it is a 
shame for our laws to be the results of our legisla- 


' t: 31 






n -ay* 


ture. Juries, which sensitively shrink from the rude 
touch of Parliamentary remedy, have been the sub- 
ject of not fewer than, I think, forty-three acts of 
Parliament, in which they havo been changed with 
all the authority of a creator over its creature, from 
Magna Charta to tho great alterations which were 
made in the 29th of George II. 

To talk of this matter in any other way is to turn 
a rational principle into an idle and vulgar super- 
stition, — like the antiquary. Dr. Woodward, wlio 
trembled to h' vo his shield scoured, for fear it 
should 1-0 discovered to be no better than an old 
pot-lid. This specios of tenderness to a jury puts 
me in mind of a gentleman of good condition, who 
had been reduced to great poverty and distress : ap- 
plication was made to some rich fellows in his neigh- 
borhood to give him some assistance ; but they begged 
to be excused, for fear of affronting a person of his 
high birth ; and so the pcor gentleman was left to 
starve, out of p.- re respect to the antiquity of his 
family. From this principle has arisen an opinion, 
that I find current amongst gentlemen, that this dis- 
temper ought to be left to cure itself: — that the 
judges, having been well exposed, and something 
terrified on account of these clamors, will entirely 
change, if not very much relax from their rigor; — 
if the present race should not change, that the 
chances of succession may put other more consti- 
tutional judges in their place ; — lastly, if neither 
should happen, yet that the spirit of an English 
jury will always be sufficient for the vindication 
of its own rights, and will not suffer itself to be 
overborne by the bench. I confess that I totally 
dissent from all these opinions. These suppositions 



become the strongest reasons with me to evuice the 
necessity of some clear and positive settlement of 
this question of contested jurisdiction. If judges 
are so full of levity, so full of timidity, if they are 
influenced by such mean and unworthy passions that 
a popular clamor is sufficient to shake Ihc resolution 
they build upon the solid basis of a legal princi- 
ple, I would endeavor to fix that mercury by a 
positive law. If to please an administration the 
judges can go one way to-day, and to please the 
crowd they can go another to-morrow, if they will 
oscillate backward and forward between power and 
popularity, it is high time to fix the law in such a 
manner as to resemble, as it ought, the great Au- 
thor of all law, in whom there is no variableness 
nor shadow of turning. 

As to their succession I have just the same opinion. 
I would not leave it to the chances of promotion, or 
to the characters of lawyers, what the law of the land, 
what the rights of juries, or what the liberty of the 
press should l)e. My law should not depend upon 
the fluctuation of the closet or the complexion of 
men. Wliether a black-haired man or a fair-haired 
man presided in the Court of King's Bench, I would 
have the law the same; ihe same, whether he was 
born in domo regnatrice and sucked from his infancy 
the milk of courts, or was nurtured in the rugged 
discipline of a popular opposition. This law of court 
cabal and if party, this mens quccdam nnllo pcrturhata 
affectu, this law of complexion, ought not to be en- 
dured for a moment in a country whose being de- 
pends upon the certainty, clearness, and stability of 

Now I come to the last substitute for the proposed 







bill, — the spirit of juries operating their own juris- 
diction. This I confess I tliink the worst of all, for 
the same reasons on which I objected to the others, 
— and for other weighty reasons besides, which are 
separate and distinct. First, because juries, being 
taken at random out of a mass of men infinitely 
large, must be of characters as various as the body 
they arise from is large in its extent. If the judges 
differ in their complexions, much more will a jury. 
A timid jury will give way to an awful judge deliver- 
ing oracularly the law, and charging them on their 
oaths, and putting it home to their consciences to be- 
ware of judging, where the law had given them no 
competence. We know that they will do so, they 
have done so in an hundred instances. A respect- 
able member of your own House, no vulgar man, 
tells you, that, on the authority of a judge, he foiuid a 
man guilty in whom at the same time he could find 
no guilt. But supposing them full of knowledge and 
full of manly confidence in themselves, how will their 
knowledge or their confidence inform or inspirit oth- 
ers ? They give no reason for their verdict, they can 
but condemn or acquit ; and no man can tell the mo- 
tives on which they have acquitted or condemned. 
So that this hope of the power of juries to assert 
their own jurisdiction must be a principle blind, as 
being without reason, and as changeable as the com- 
plexion of men and the temper of the times. 

But, after all, is it fit that this dishonorable conten- 
tion between the court and juries should subsist any 
longer ? On what principle is it that a jury [juror?] 
refuses to be directed by the court as to his compe- 
tence? Whether a libel or no libel be a question 
of law or of fact may be doubtful ; but a question 



of jurisdiction and competence is certainly a question 
of law: on this the court ought undoubtedly to judge, 
and to judge solely and exclusively. If they judge 
wrong from excusable error, you ought to correct 
it, as to-day it is proposed, by an explanatory bill, — 
or if by corruption, by bill of penalties declaratory, 
and by punishment. What does a juror say to a 
judge, when he refuses his opinion upon a question 
of judicature ? "You are so corrupt, that I should 
consider myself a partaker of your crime, were I to 
be guided by your opinion " ; or, " You are so gro.-s- 
ly ignorant, that I, fresh from my hounds, from my 
plough, my counter, or my loom, am fit to direct 
you in your own profession." Tliis is an \infittiiig, 
it is a dangerous state of things. The spirit of any 
sort of men is not a fit 7'ule for deciding on the 
bounds of their jurisdiction : first, because it is 
different in different men, and even different in tlio 
same at different times, and can never become tl\o 
proper directing line of law ; next, because it is not 
reason, but feeling, and, when once it is irritated, 
it is not apt to confine itself within its proper limits. 
If it becomes not difference in opinion upon law, but 
a trial of spirit between parties, ^ar courts of law 
are no longer the temple of justice, but the amphi- 
theatre for gladiators. No, — God forbid ! Juries 
ought to take their law from the bench only ; but 
it is onr business that tliey should hear nothing 
from the bench but what is agreeable to the prin- 
ciples of the Constitution. Tlie jury are to hear 
the judge : the judge is to hear the law, where it 
speaks plain ; where it docs not, he is to hear the 
legislature. As I do not think these opinions of 
the judges to be agreeable to those principles, I wish 






: », 


to take the only method in which they can or ought 
to 1)0 corrected, — by bill. 

Next, my opinion is, that it ought to be rather by a 
bill for removing controversies than by a bill in the 
state of manifest and express declaration and in 
words de prceterito. I do this upon reasons of equity 
and constitutional policy. I do not want to censure 
tlie present judges. I think them to la excused for 
tlieir error. Ignorance is no excuse for a judge ; it is 
changing the nature of his crime ; it is not absolving. 
It must be such error as a wise and conscientious 
judge may possibly fall into, and must arise from one 
or both these causes: — !. A plausible principle of 
law; 2. Tlie precedents of respectable authorities, 
and in good times. In the first, the principle of law, 
that the judge is to decide on law, the jury to decide 
on fiict, is an ancient and venerable principle and 
maxim of the law ; and if supported in this applica- 
tio.i by i)recedonts of good times and of good men, the 
judge, if wrong, ought to be corrected, — he ought 
not to be reproved or to be disgraced, or the author- 
ity or respect to your tribunals to be impaired. In 
cases in which declaratory bills have been made, 
where by violence and corruption some fundamental 
part of the Constitution has been struck at, where 
thoy would damn the principle, censure the persons, 
and annul the acts, — but where the law has been 
by the accident of human frailty depraved or in a 
particular instniice misunderstood, where you neither 
mean to resc . the acts nor to censure the persons, 
in such cases you have taken the explanatory mode, 
and, without condemning what is done, you direct 
the future judgment of the court. 
All bills for the reformation of the law must be 



according to the subject-matter, the circumstances, 
and the occasion, and are of four kinds : -- 1. Eitlier 
the law is totally wanting, and then a new enacting 
statute must be made to supply that want; or, 2. 
it is defective, then a new law must bo made to 
enforce it; 3. or it is opposed by power or fraud, 
and then an act must be made to declare it ; 4. or it 
is rendered doubtful and controverted, and then a 
law must be made to explain it. These must be 
applied according to the exigence of the case : one is 
just as good as another of them. Miserable indeed 
would bo the resources, poor and unfurnished tho 
stores and maga; 'les of legislation, if we were bound 
up to a little narrow form, and not able to frame our 
acts of Parliament according to every disposition of 
our own minds and to every possible emergency of 
the commonwealth, — to make them declaratory, en- 
forcing, explanatory, repealing, just in what mode or 
in what degree we please. 

Those v.lio think that the judges living and dead 
are to be condemned, that your tribunals of justice 
are to be dishonored, that their acts and judgments 
on this business are to be rescinded, — they will 
undoubtedly vote against this bill, and for another 

I am not of the opinion of those gentlemen who 
are against disturbing the public repose : I like a 
clamor, whenever there is an abuse. The fire-bell at 
midnight disturbs your sleep, but it keeps you from 
l)oiiig burned in your bed. The hue-and-cry alarms 
tho county, but it preserves all tho property of the 
province. All these clamors aim at redress. But a 
clamor made merely for the purpose of rendering 
the people discontented with their situation, without 


, t- n 

' - lit 


I il'i 

t r 


r • 





i J 


an endeavor to give thera a practical remedy, is in- 
deed Olio of tlio worst acts of sedition. 

I have road and heard much upon tlic conduct of 
our courts in the business of libels. I was extremely 
willing , '^nter into, and very free to act as facts 
shoula t' out on that inquiry, aiming constantly at 
remedy as tlie end of all clamor, all debate, all writ- 
ing, and all inquiry ; for wliich reason I did embrace, 
and do now with joy, this method of giving quiet 
to the courts, jurisdiction to juries, liberty to tlic 
press, and satisfaction to the people. I thank my 
friends for what they have done ; I hope the public 
will one day reap the benefit of their pious and judi- 
cious endeavors. Thoy have now sown tlie seed ; I 
hope they will live to see the flourishing harvest. 
Their bill is sown in weakness ; it will, I trust, be 
reaped in power. And then, however, we shall have 
reason to apply to them what my Lord Coko says 
was an ajihorism continually in the mouth of a 
great sage of the law, — " Blessed be not the com- 
plaining tongue, but blessed be the amending hand." 






AN improper and injurious account of the lull 
brought into the House of Commons by Mr. 
Dowdcswell has lately appeared in one of the public 
papers. I am not at all surprised at it, as I am not 
a stranger to the views and politics of those who have 
caused it to be inserted. 

Mr. Dowdcswell did not hring in an enacting hill to 
give to juries, as the account expresses it, a poiver to 
try law and fact in matter of libel. Mr. Dowdcswell 
brought in a bill to put an end to those doubts and 
controversies upo.. tat subject which have unhappily 
distracted our courts, to the great detriment of the 
public, and to the great dishonor of the national 

That it is the province of the jury, in informations 
and indictments for libels, to try nothing more than 
the fact of the composing and of the publishing aver- 
ments and innuendoes is a doctrine held at present by 
all the judges of the King's Bench, probably by most 
of the judges of the kingdom. The same doctrine 

• The manuscript from which this Letter is taken is in Mr. 
Burke's own handwriting, but it docs not appear to whom it was 
addressed, nor is there any d.ite affixed to it. It has been thought 
proper to insert it here, as being connect. . with the subject of tha 
foregoing Speech. 




lias been held pretty uniformly since the Revolution ; 
and it prevails more or less with the jury, according 
to the degree of respect with which they are disposed 
to receive tiic opinions of the bench. 

This doctrine, which, when it prevails, tends to un- 
nihilute tiio benefit of trial by jury, and when it is 
rejected by juries, tends to weaken and disgrace the 
authority of the judge, is not a doctrine proper for 
an English judicature. For the sake both of judge 
and jury, tho controversy ought to be qtiieted, and 
the law ought to be settled in a manner clear, defin- 
itive, and constitutional, by the only authority com- 
petent to it, the authority of the legislature. 

Mr. Dowdeswell's bill was brought in for that pur- 
pose. It gives to the jury no neiv pnwcrs ; but, after 
reciting the doubts and controversies, (which nobody 
denies actually to subsist,) and after stating, tliat, if 
juries are not reputed competent to try the whole 
matter, the benefit of trial hy jury will be of none 
or imperfect effect, it enacts, not that the jury shall 
have the potver, but that they sliall be held and re- 
puted in law and right competent to try the whole 
matter laid in the information. The bill is directing 
to the judges concerning the opinion in law which 
they are known to hold upon this sulject, — and does 
not ill the least imply that the jury were to derive a 
new right and power from that bill, if it should have 
paj^sed into an act of Parliament. The implication 
is directly the contrary, and is as strongly conveyed 
as it is possilile for those to do who state a doubt and 
controversy without charging with criminality those 
persons who so doubted and so controverted. 

Such a style is frequent in acts of this nature, and 
is that only which is suited to the occasion. An in- 

IN r tos" 



sidintis iiso l ■< ixjou made of tlio words enact and 
declare, as a v .oy wore formal and ojMjrativo words 
of force to distinguish diftcrent spccioH of laws pro- 
ducing different efTfcts. Nothing is more ground- 
lf^> ; and I am jiorsnaded no lawyer will stand to 
sucli an assertion. Tlio gentlemen who say tliat a 
bill onght to have been hrougiit in upon the principle 
and in the style of the Petition of Right and Declara- 
tion of Right ought to consider how far the circum- 
stances are the saiuo in the two cases, and how far 
they are prepared to go the whole lengths of the rea- 
son of those remarkal>lo laws. Mr. Dowdeswell and 
his friends are of opinion that tlio circumstances are 
not the same, and that therefore the bill ought not 
to be the same. 

It has been always disagreeable to the persons who 
compose that connection to engage wantonly in a 
paper war, especially with gentlemen for whom they 
have an esteem, and who seem to agree with them 
in the great grounds of thoir public conduct ; but 
they can never consent to purchase any assistance 
from any persons by the forfeiture of their own rep- 
utation. They respect public opinion ; and therefore, 
whenever they shall he called upon, they are ready 
to meet their adversaries, as soon as they jdease, 
before the tribunal of the public, and there to jus- 
tify the constitutional nature and tendency, the pro- 
priety, the prndenco, and the policy of their bill. 
They are equally ready to explain and to justify all 
their proceedings in the conduct of it, — equally 
ready to defend their resolution to make it one ob- 
ject (if ever they should have the power) in a plan 
of public reformation. 

Your correspondent ought to have been satisfied 



r L 




m i 



1 i; '» 



with the assistance wliich his friends have lent to 
administration in defeating that bill. He ought not 
to make a feeble endeavor (I dare say, much to the 
displeasure of those friends) to disgrace the gentle- 
man who brought it in. A measure proposed by 
Mr. Dowdeswell, seconded by Sir George Savile, and 
supported by their frier.ds, will stand fair with tlie 
public, even though it should have been opposed by 
that list of names (respectable names, I admit) which 
have been printed with so much parade and osten- 
tation in your papers. 

It is not true that Mr. Burke spoke in praise of 
Lord Mansfield. If he had found anything in Lord 
Mansfield praiseworthy, I fancy he is not disposed 
to make an apology to anybody for doing justice. 
Your correspondent's reason for asserting it is visi- 
ble enough; and it is altogether in the strain of oth- 
er misrepresentations. That gentlemen spoke de- 
cently of the judges, and he did no more ; most of 
the gentlemen who debated, on both sides, held the 
same language; and nobody will think their zeal 
the less warm, or the less effectual, because it is 
not attended with scurrility and virulence. 


It iliium .l/un;i\, Fnii Euri of M,in:h,-l,l, k.T. 
Krotn a picture, (.amtt-a :■: |-H-,, 1.-, |ohn Sinjrlfton C uii-,. R A 







w > 






Ill i 


11 f 

' ai'*l 



. v 


WHEREAS doubts and controversies have aris- 
en at various times concerning the right of 
jurors to try the whole matter laid in indictments 
and informations for seditious r nd other libels ; and 
whereas trial by juries would be of none or imper- 
fect effect, if the jurors were not held to be compe- 
tent to try the whole matter aforesaid: for settling 
and clearing such doubts and controversies, and for 
securing to the subject the effectual and complete 
benefit of trial by juries in such indictments and 

Be it enacted, «fec., That jurord duly impanelled 
and sworn to try the i^sue between the king and the 
defendant upon any indictment or information for a 
seditious libel, or a hbel ui der any other denomina- 
tion or description, shall be held and reputed com- 
petent, to all intents and purposes, in law and in 
right, to try every part of the matter laid or charged 
in said indictment or information, comprehending 
the criminal intention of the defendant, and the 
evil tendency of the libel charged, as well as the 
mere fact of the publication thereof, and the appli- 
cation by innuendo of blanks, initial letters, pictures, 
and other defaces ; any opinion, qaestion, ambiguity, 
or doubt to the contrary notwithstanding. 




i ■ \ 



|K \ 



June 15, 17'r i. 


' "S 4^-^ 

I I 








THIS act [the Marriage Act] stands upon two 
pnnciples: one, that the power of marrynig 
without consent of parents should not take place till 
twenty-one years of age; the other, that all mar- 
riages should be public. 

The proposition of the honorable mover goes to the 
first ; and undoubtedly his motives are fair and hon- 
orable ; and even in that measure by which he would 
take away paternal power, he is influenced to it by 
filial piety ; and he is led into it by a natural, and to 
him inevitable, but real mistake, — that the ordinary 
race of mankind advance as fast towards maturity of 
judgment and understanding as he does. 

The question is not now, whether the law ought to 
acknowledge and protect such a state of life as mi- 
nority, nor whether the continuance which is fixed 
for that state be not improperly prolonged in the law 
of England. Neither of these in general are ques- 
tioned. The only question is, whether matrimony is 
to be taken out of the general nil , and whether the 
minors of both sexes, without the consent of their 
parents, ought to have a capacity of contracting the 
matrimonial, whilst they have not the capacity of 
contracting any other engagement. Now it appears 
to me very clear that they ought not. It is a great 
mistake to think that mere animal propagation is the 
sole end of matrimony. Matrimony is instituted not 





\ \'h 

only for the propagation of men, but for their mitri- 
tion, their education, their establishment, and for the 
answering of all the purposes of a rational and moral 
being ; and it is not the duty of the community to 
consider alone of how many, but how useful citizens 
it shall bo composed. 

It is most certain that men are well qualified for 
propagation long before they are sufficiently qualified 
even by bodily strength, much less by mental pru- 
dence, and by acquired skill in trades and professions, 
for the maintenance of a family. Therefore to enabk 
and authorize any man to introduce citizens into tl h 
commonwealth, before a rational security can be gi' . 
that he may provide for them and educate them as 
citizens ought to be provided for and educated, is 
totally incongruous with the whole order of society. 
Nay, it is fundamentally unjust ; for a man tliat 
breeds a family without competent means of main- 
tenance incumbers other men with his children, and 
disables them so far from maintaining their own. 
The improvi . nt marriage of one man becomes a tax 
iipon the ordei'iy and regular marriage of all the rest. 
Therefore those laws are wisely constituted that give 
a man the use of all his faculties at one time, that 
tliey may be mutually subservient, aiding and assist- 
ing to each other : that the time of his completing 
his bodily strength, the time of mental discretion, the 
time of his having barned his trade, and the time at 
wliich he has the disposition of his fortune, should bo 
lilccwise the time in which he is permitted to intro- 
duce citizens into the state and to charge the com- 
munity with their maintenance. To give a man a 
family during his apprenticeship, whilst his very 
labor belongs to another, — to give him a family, 


when you do not give him a fortune to maintain it, 
— to give him a family before he can contract any 
one of those engagements without which no business 
can bo carried on, would be to burden the state with 
families without any security for thoir maintenance. 
When parents themselves marry their children, they 
become in some sort security to prevent the ill conse- 
quences. You have this security in parental con- 
sent ; the state takes its security in the knowledge uf 
human nature. Parents ordinarily consider little the 
passion of their children and their present gratifica- 
tion. Don't fear the power of a father : it is kind to 
passion to give it time to cool. But their censures 
sometimes make me smile, — sometimes, for I am 
very infirm, make me angry : ioepe bilem, tape jocum 

It gives me pain to differ on this occasion from 
many, if not most, of those whom I honor and esteem. 
To suffer the grave animadversion and censorial re- 
buke of the honorable gentleman who made the mo- 
tion, of him whose good-nature and good sense the 
House look upon with a particular partiality, wliose 
approbation would have been one of the highest ob- 
jects of my ambition, — this hurts me. It is said the 
Marriage Act is aristocratic. I am accused, I am 
told abroad, of being a man of aristocratic principles. 
If by aristocracy they mean the peers, I have no vul- 
gar admiration, nor any vulgar antipathy towards 
them ; I hold their order in cold and decent respect. 
I hold them to be of an absolute necessity in the Con- 
stitution ; but I think they are only good when kept 
within their proper bounds. I trust, wlienever there 
has been a dispute between these Houses, the part I 
have taken has not been equivocal. If by the aris- 





' li. 


I' 'f 




tocracy (which, iudon'3, oici jioarer to the jwint) 
they mean an adherence to ilio rich and powerful 
against the poor and weak, this would, indeed, Ite a 
vory extraordinary part. I have incurred the odium 
of gentlemen in this House for not paying sufficient 
regard to men of ample property. When, indeed, 
the smallest ri(rhts of the poorest people in the king- 
dom arc in question, I would set my face against any 
act of pride and power countenanced by tlio highest 
that are in it; and if it should come to the last 
extremity, and to a contest of blood, — God forbid ! 
God forbid ! — my part is taken : I would take my 
fate with the poor and low and foel)lo. But if theso 
people came to tuni their liberty into a cloak for 
maliciousness, and to seek a privilege of exemption, 
not from power, but from the rules of niurulity and 
virtuous discipline, then I would join my hand to 
make them feel the force which a few united in a 
good cause have over a multitude of the profligate 
and ferocious. 

I wish the nature of the ground of repeal were 
considered with a little attention. Ir, is said the act 
tends to accumulate, to keep up the power of great 
families, and to add wealth to wealth. It may be 
that it does so. It is impossible that any principle of 
law or govcrnmr'nt useful to the community shculd 
bo established w ut an advantage to those who 
have the greatest stake in the country. Even some 
vices arise from it. The same laws which secure 
property encourage avarice ; and the fences made 
about honest acquisition are the strong bars wiiicli 
secure the hoards of the miser. Tl: digniwos of 
magistracy are encouragements to am; tion, with all 
the black train of Tillanies which attei that wicke ; 




imwion. But still we m\-'<*- bav. ws to nr- ire prop- 
erty, and ^till we must hav louk id disi otious and 
magi^tracv iu th« tate, notwithstanding ir mani- 
fest tondc cy to <iic< iirago rarice and ami ion. 

By affirraing the parental autliority throii_liout tho 
state, [jarci t8 in high rank will geuerally aim at, and 
will S( metimes liave the means, too, of preserving 
their minor children from any hut wealthy or splen- 
did matches But this authority preserves from a 
tj.ouidnd misfortune;^ which embitter every part ot 
every man" domestic life, an i tear to piec the <l';ar- 
est ties in human s«ici'ty. 

I am no peer, nor like to I'O, — but am in m ' ili' 
life, in the mass of citizens ; . ^t I should fevl lor 
son who married a p! tituto ■ woman, u" a daugl 
who married a dishonorable and prosl iited , us 

much as any T)eer in the realm. 

YdU are afraid of the avaricious irfrcip' of far 
thers. But observe that tlu avaricious ;>ri iph i 
here liiitisiaicd very considerably. Tt i^ ivarico by 
proxy; it i avarice not working tsell r for it- 
self, bit: trough *^tie medium o: pai ! i- (H tion, 
meaning to procure ^'ood to its ■ ">p .uj:. Bi i > 
contest is not between love and avaucc. 

Wi 'To you would jruard against tlu- '>■ ora- 

tion - uii^ species o benevolent ava avarice 

of th ! father, you I loos ; anothei of ava- 

rice,- -thi,t of the fortune-hupt< 1-, um .u; ed, un- 
qualiliviJ. To sh >w ti>o m^tis s who has oard of 
a man running away with a woman not worth six- 
pence ? Do not call this by the name of the sweet 
and best passioi , — love. It is rubbery, — not a jot 
better t' ui a"' other. 

Would you ufiFtr the sworn eneiuj of his family, 




his life, and his honor, possibly the shame and scan- 
dal and blot of human society, to debauch from his 
care and protection the dearest pledge that he has 
on earth, the sole comfort of his declinmg years, al- 
most in infantine imbecility, — and with it to carry 
into the hands of his enemy, and the disgrace of 
Nature, the dear-earned substance of a careful and 
laborious life ? Think of the daughter of an honest, 
virtuous parent allied to vice and infamy. Think of 
the hopeful son tied for life by the meretricious arts 
of the refuse of mercenary and promiscuous lewdness. 
Have mercy on the youth of both sexes ; protect them 
from their ignorance and inexperience ; protect one 
part of life by the wisdom of another ; protect them 
by the wisdom of laws and the care of Nature. 

|i ■ 


ox A 


RBRUABT IT, 1712, 










IF I considered this bill as an attack upon the 
Church, brought in for the purpose of impover- 
ishing and weakening the clergy, I should be one of 
the foremost in an early and vigorous opposition to it. 

I admit, the same reasons do not press for limiting 
the claims of the Church that existed for limiting tlie 
crown, by that wisest of all laws which has secureJl 
the property, the peace, and the freedom of this coun- 
try from the most dangerous mode of attack which 
could be made upon them all. 

I am very sensible of the propriety of maintaining 
that venerable body with decency, — and with more 
than mere decency. I would maintain it according 
to the ranks wisely established in it, with that sober 
and temperate splendor that is suitable to a sacred 
character invested with high dignity. 

There ought to be a symmetry between all the 
parts and orders of a state. A rioor clergy in an op- 
ulent nation can have little correspondence with the 
body it is to instruct, and it is a disgrace to the pub- 
lic sentiments of religion. Such irreligious frugality 
is even bad economy, as the little that is given is en 
tirely thrown away. Such an impoverished and de- 
graded clergy in qtiiet times could never execute 
their duty, and in time of disorder would infinitely 
aggravate the public confusions. 

That the property of the Church is a favored and 






h ' 


privileged property I readily admit. It is made with 
great wisdom ; since a perpetual body, with a perpet- 
ual duty, ought to iiave a perpetual provision. 

The question is not, the property of the Church, or 
its security. The question is, whether you will ren- 
der the principle of prescription a principle of the law 
of this land, and mcorporate it with the whole of 
your jurisprudence, — whether, having given it first 
against the laity, then against the crown, you will 
now extend it to the Church. 

The acts which were made, giving lunitation against 
the laity, were not acts agauist the property of those 
who might be precluded by limitations. The act of 
quiet against the crown was not against the interests 
of the crown, but against a power of vexation. 

If the principle of prescription be not a constitu- 
tion of positive law, but a prmciple of natural equity, 
then to hold it out against any man is not doing him 

That tithes are due of common right is readily 
granted ; and if this principle had been kept in its 
original straitness, it might, indeed, be supposed 
that to plead an exemption was to plead a long-con- 
tinued fraud, and that no man could be deceived in 
such a title, — as the moment he bought land, ho 
must know that he bought land tithed: prescrip- 
tion could not aid him, for prescription can only 
attach on a supposed bond fide possession. But the 
fact is, that the principle has been broken in upon. 

Here it is necessary to distinguish two sorts of 

1. Land carries no mark on it to distinguish it 
as ecclesiastical, as tithes do, which are a charge on 
land ; therefore, though it had been made inalienable, 

1 i', 


it ought perhaps to be subject to limitation. It might 
bond fide be held. 

But, first, it was not originally inalienable, no, not 
by the Canon Law, until the restraining act of the 
11th [1st?] of Elizabeth. But the great revolution 
of the dissolution of monasteries, by the 31st Hen., 
ch. 13, has so mixed and confounded ecclesiastical witli 
lay property, that a man may by every rule of good 
faith be possessed of it. The statute of Queen Eliza- 
beth, ann. 1, ch. 1, [?] gave away the bishop's lands. 

So far as to 1 mds. 

As to tithes, they are not things in their own na- 
ture subject to be barred by prescription upon the 
general principle. But tithes and Church lands, by 
the statutes of Henry VIH. and the 11th [1st?] Eliz., 
have become objects in commercio : for by coming to 
the crown they became grantable in that way to the 
subject, and a great part of the Churcli lands passed 
through the crown to the people. 

By passing to the king, tithes became property to 
a mixed party; by passing from the king, they be- 
came absolutely lay property : the partition-wall was 
broken down, and tithes and Church possession bo- 
came no longer synonymous terms. No [A?] man, 
therefore, might become a fair purchaser of tithes, 
and of exemption from tithes. 

By the statute of Elizabcu , the lands took the same 
course, (I will not inquire by what justice, good pol- 
icy, and decency,) but they passed into lay lands, 
became the object of purchases for valuable consid- 
eration, and of marriage settlements. 

Now, if tithes might come to a Inyman, land in 
the hands of a layman might be also tithe-free. So 
that there was an object which a layman might be- 

|i - 





come seized of equitably and bond fide; there was 
Bomething on which a prescription might attach, the 
end of which is, to secure the natural well-meaning 
ignorance of men, and to secure property by the best 
of all principles, continuance. 

I have therefore shown that a layman may be equi- 
tably seized of Church lands, — 2. of tithes, — 3. of 
exemption from tithes; and you will not contend 
that there should be no prescription. Will you say 
that the alienations made before the 11th of Eliza- 
beth shall not stand good? 

I do not mean anything against the Church, her 
dignities, her honors, her privileges, or her posses- 
sions. I should wish even to enlarge them all : not 
that the Church of England is incompetently en- 
dowed. This is to take nothing from her but the 
power of making herself odious. If she be secure 
herself, she can have no objection to the security of 
others. For I hope she is secure from lay-bigotry 
and anti-priestcraft, for certainly such things there 
are. I heartily wish to see the Church secure in 
such possessions as will not only enable her minis- 
ters to preach the Gospel with ease, but of such a 
kind as will enable them to preach it with its full 
effect, so that the pastor shall not have the inauspi- 
cious appearance of a tax-gatherer, — such a main- 
tenance as is compatible with the civil prosperity 
and improvement of their country. 




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These Hints appear to have been first thoughts, which were 
probablj intended to be amplified and connected, and so worked 
up into a regular dissertation. No date appears of the time 
when thej were written, but it was probablj before the year 







r' is generally observed that no species of writing 
is so difficult as the dramatic. It must, indeed, 
appear so, were we to consider it upon one side only. 
It is a dialogue, or species of composition wbich in 
itself requires all the mastery of a complete writer 
with grace and spirit to support. We may add, that 
it must have a fable, too, which necessarily requires 
inrentiou, one of the rarest qualities of the human 
mind. It would surprise us, if we were to examine 
the thing critically, how few good original stories 
there are in the world. The most celebrated bor- 
row from each other, and are content with some 
new turn, some corrective, addition, or embellish- 
ment. Many of the most celebrated writers in that 
way can claim no other merit. I do not think La 
Fontaine has one original story. And if we pur- 
sue him to those who were his originals, the Italian 
writers of tales and novels, we shall find most even 
of them drawing from antiquity, or borrowing from 
tlie Eastern world, or adopting and decorating the 
little popular stories they found current and tradi- 
tionary in their country. Sometimes they laid the 
foundation of their tale in real fact. Even after all 
their borrowing from so many funds, they are still 
far from opulent. How few stories has Boccaco 

TOL. Tll. 




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which are tolerable, aud how much fewer are there 
which you would desire to read twice! But this 
general difficulty is greatly increased, when wo come 
to the drama. ITere a fable is essential, — a fablo 
which is to bo conducted with rapidity, clearnoss, 
consistency, and surprise, without any, or certainly 
with very little, aid from narrative. Tliis is the rea- 
son that generally nothing is more dull in telling 
than the plot of a play. It is seldom or never a 
good story in itself; aud in this particular, some of 
the greatest writers, both in ancient and modern 
theatres, have failed in the most miserable manner. 
It is well a play has still so many requisites to 
complete it, that, though the writer should not suc- 
ceed in these particulars, and therefore should bo 
so far from perfection, there are still enough left 
in which he may please, at less expense of labor 
to himself, and perhaps, too, with more real advan- 
tage to his auditory. It is, indeed, very difficult hap- 
pily to excite the passions and draw the characters 
of men ; but our nature leads us more directly to 
such paintings than to the invention of a story. We 
are imitative animals; and we are more naturally 
led to imitate the exertions of character and passion 
tlian to observe and describe a series of events, and 
to discover those relations and dependencies in them 
which will plea e. Nothing can bo more rare than 
this quality. Herein, as I believe, consists the dif- 
ference between the inventive and the descriptive 
genius. By the inventive genius i mean the creator 
of agreeable facts and incidents; by the d'scriptive, 
the delineator of characters, manners, and passions. 
Imitation calls us to this ; wo are in some cases al- 
most forced to it, and it is comparatively easy. More 



observe tho characters of men than the order of 
things: to the one we are formed by Nature, aud 
by that sympa ' y from which we are so strongly led 
to take a part in the passions aud manners uf our 
fellow-men ; tho other is, as it were, foreign and ex- 
trinsical. Neither, indeed, can anything be done, 
even in tliis, without invention; but it is obvious 
that this invention is of a kind altogether different 
from the former. However, though the more sub- 
lime genius aud the greatest art are required for 
the former, yet the latter, as it is more common 
and more easy, bo it is more useful, and adminis- 
ters more directly to the great business of life. 

If the drama requires such a combination of tal- 
ents, tho most common of which is very rarely to 
be found and difficult to be exerted, it is not sur- 
prising, at a time when almost all kinds of poetry 
are cultivated with little success, to find that we 
have done no great matters in this. Many causes 
may be assigned for our present weakness in that 
oldest and most excellent branch of philosophy, poet- 
ical learning, and particularly in what regards the 
theatre. I shall here only consider what appears 
to me to be one of these causes : I mean the wrong 
notion of the art itself, which begins to grow fash- 
ionable, especially among people of an elegant turn 
of mind with a weak understanding ; and these are 
they that form the great body of the idle part of 
every polite and civilized nation. The prevailing 
system of that class of mankind is indolence. This 
gives them an aversion to all strong movements. 
It infuses a delicacy of sentiment, which, when it 
is real, and accompanied with a justness of thought, 
is an amiable quality, aud favorable to the fine arts ; 





t. " ' 

I t 

bat when it comes to make the whole uf the chai^ 
•oter, it injures things more excellent than those 
which it improves, and degenerates into a false re- 
finement, which diffuses a languor and breathes a 
frivolous air over everything which it can influ* 

Having differed in mj opmion about dramatic 
composition, and particularly in regard to comedy, 
with a gentleman for whose character and talents I 
have a very high respect, I thought myself obliged, 
on accoimt of that difference, to a new aad more 
exact examination of the grounds upon wbii H I had 
formed my opinions. I thought it would to impos- 
sible to come to any clear and definite idea i this 
subject, without remounting to the natural possions 
or dispositions of men, which first gave rise to this 
species of writing; for from these alone iti nature, 
its limits, and its true character can be determined. 

There are but four general principles which cau 
move men to interest themselves in the characters of 
others, and they may be classed under the heads of 
good and iH opinion : on the side of the first may 
be classed admiration and love, hatred and contempt 
on the other. And these have accordingly divided 
poetry into two very different kinds, — the panegyri 
cal, and the satirical ; under one of which heads all 
genuine poetry falls (for I do not reckon the didactic 
as poetry, in the strictness of speech). 

Without question, the subject of all poetry was 
originally direct and personal. Fictitious character 
is a refinement, and comparatively modern ; for ab- 
straction is in its nature slow, and always follows the 
progress of philosophy. Men had always friends and 
enemies before they knew the exact nature of vice 



and virtue; they naturally, lud with their best pow- 
ers of eloquence, whether in .roso or verse, magni- 
fied and set ofi the one, vilified and traduced tho 

The first species of composition in ither ■way waa 
probably soi/o general, indefinite topi'i of prai-w or 
blame, expressed in a song or hymn, winch is the 
u„»«t common and simple kind of panegyric and sat- 
ire. But as nothing tended to set their hero or 
e'lbject ill a more forcible light than sorae story to 
their advantage or prejudice, they soon introduced 
a narrative, and thus improved I'u; composition into 
a greater variety of pleasure to the hearer, and to a 
more forcible instrument of honor or disgrace to tho 

It is natural with men, when they relate any ac- 
tion with any degree of warmth, to represent the 
parties to it talking as the occasion requires ; iiid 
this produces that mixed species of poetry, composed 
of narrative and dialogue, which is very universal 
in all languages, and of which Homtr is the noblest 
exaiiple in any. This mixed kind of poetry seems 
also -o be most perfect, as it takes in a variety 
of situations, rtircumstances, reflections, and descrip- 
tions, which must be rejected on a more limited 

It must be equally obvious, that men, in relating 
a story in a forcible manner, do very frequently 
mimic the looks, gest'no, and voice of the person 
concerned, and for the time, as it were, put them- 
selves into his place. This gave the hint to the 
drama, or acting ; and observing the powerful eflect 
of this in public exhibitions .... 

But the drama, the most artificial and complicat> d 




1. . .i 




of all the poetical machines, was not yet brought 
to perfection; and like those animals which change 
their state, some parts of the old narrative still ad- 
hered. It still had a chorus, it still had a prologue 
to explain the design ; and the perfect drama, an 
automaton supported and moved without any for- 
eign help, was formed late and gradually. Nay, 
there are still several parts of the world in which 
it is not, and probably never may be, formed. The 
Chinese drama. 

Tiie drama, being at length formed, naturally ad- 
hered to the first division of poetry, the satirical and 
panegyrical, which made tragedy and comedy. 

Men, in praising, naturally applaud the dead. 
Tragedy celebrated the dead. 

Great men are never sufficiently shown but in 
struggles. Tragedy turned, therefore, on melancholy 
and affecting subjects, — a sort of threnodia, — its 
passions, therefore, admiration, terror, and pity. 

Comedy was satirical. Satire is best on the living. 

It was soon found that the best way to depress 
an liated character was to turn it into ridicule ; and 
therefore the greater vices, which in the beginning 
were lashed, gave place to the eontemptihle. Its pas- 
sion, therefore, became ridicule. 

Every writing must have its characteristic pas- 
sion. What is that of comedy, if not ridicule ? 

Comedy, therefore, is a satirical poem, represenl- 
inn; an action carried on by dialogue, to excite 
laughter by describing ludicrous characters. See 

Tliereforc, to preserve this definition, the ridicule 
must be eltlier in the action or characters, or both. 

All action may be ludicrous, independent of the 



characters, by the hidicroiis situations and accidents 
which may happen to the characters. 

But the action is not so important as tlie charac 
ters. "We see this every day upon the stage. 

What are the characters fit for comedy? 

It appears that no part of human life wliich may 
be subject to ridicule is exempted from comedy ; for 
wherever men run into the absurd, whether high 
or low, they may be the subject of satire, and con- 
sequently of comedy. Indeed, some characters, as 
kings, are exempted through decency ; others might 
be too insignificant. Some are of opinion tliat per- 
sons in better life are so polished that their true 
characters and the real bent of their humor cannot 
appear. For my own part, I cannot give entire 
credit to this remark. For, i-i the first jilace, I be- 
lieve that good-breeding is not so universal or strong 
in any part of life as to overrule the real chaructois 
and strong passions of such men as would be proper 
objects of the drama. Secondly, it is not the ordi- 
nary, commonplace discourse of assemblies that is to 
be represented in ctmedy. The parties are to be put 
in situations in which their passions arc roused, and 
their real characters called forth ; and if their situa- 
tions are judiciously adapted to the characters, there 
is no doubt but they will appear in all tlieir force, 
choose what situation of life you please. Let tlio 
politest man alive game, and feol at loss ; let tiiis 
be his character; and his politeness will never liido 
it, nay, it will put it forward with greater violence, 
and make a more forcible contrast.* 

But genteel comedy puts these characters, not in 
their passionate, but in their genteel light ; makes 

• Sic in MS. 




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elegant cold conversation, and virtuous personages.* 
Such sort of pictures disagreeable. 

Virtue and politeness not proper for comedy ; for 
they have too much or no movement. 

They are not good in tragedy, much less here. 

The greater virtues, fortitude, justice, and the like, 
too serious and sublime. 

It is not every story, every character, every inci- 
dent, but those only which answer their end. — Paint- 
ing of artificial things not good ; a thing being use- 
ful does not therefore make it most pleasing in 
picture. — Natural manners, good and bad. — Senti- 
ment. In common affairs and common life, virtu- 
ous sentiments are not even the character of virtu- 
ous men ; we cannot bear these sentiments, but when 
they are pressed out, as it were, by great exigencies, 
and a certain contention which is above the general 
style of comedy 

The first character of propriety the Lawsuit possess- 
es in an eminent degree. The plot of the play is 
an iniquitous suit ; there can be no fitter persons to 
be concerned in the active part of it than low, neces- 
sitous lawyers of bad character, and profligates of 
desperate fortune. On the other hand, in the pas- 
sive part, if an honest and virtuous man had been 
made the object of their designs, or a weak man of 
good intentions, every successful step they should 
take against him ought rather to fill the audience 
with horror than pleasure and mirth ; and if in the 
conclusion their plots should 'je baffled, even this 
would come too late to prevent that ill impression. 
But in the Lawsuit this is admirably avoided : for the 
character chosen is a rich, avaricious usurer: the 

• Bic in MS. 






pecuniary distresses of such a person can never bo 
looked upon with horror ; and if he should be even 
handled unjustly, we always wait his delirery with 

Now with regard to the display of the character, 
which is the essential part of the plot, nothing can 
be more finely imagined than to draw a miser in 
law. If you draw him inclined to love and mar- 
riage, you depart from the height of his character 
in some measure, as MoliSre has done. Expenses 
of this kind he may easily avoid. If you draw him 
in law, to advance brings expense, to draw back 
brings expense ; and the character is tortured and 
brought out at every moment. 

A sort of notion has prevailed that a comedy might 
subsist without humor. It is an idle disquisition, 
whether a story in private life, represented in dia- 
logues, may not be carriei on with some degree of 
merit without humor. It may unquestionably ; but 
what shines chiefly in comedy, the painting the man- 
ners of life, must be in a great measure wanting. A 
character which has nothing extravagant, wrong, or 
singular in it can affect but very little : and this is 
what makes Aristotle draw the great line of distinc- 
tion between tragedy and comedy. 'Ev avrrj Be rg 
hia<f>op^ Koi ff rpay^Sluy &c. Arist. Poet. Ch. II. 
• . . . . 

There is not a more absurd mistake than that 
whatever may not unnaturally happen in an action 
is of course to be admitted into every painting of it. 
In Nature, the great and the little, the serious and 
the ludicrous, tilings the most disproportionate the 
one to the other, are frequently huddled together 
in much confusion. And what then ? It is the 









: . . < 

business of Art first to choose some determinate 
end and purpose, and then to select those parts of 
Nature, and those only, which conduce to that end, 
avoiding with most religious exactness the intermix- 
ture of anything which would contradict it. Else 
the whole idea of propriety, that is, the only distinc- 
tion between the just and chimerical in the arts, 
would be utterly lost. An hero eats, drinks, and 
sleeps, like other men ; but to introduce such scenes 
on the stage, because they are natural, would be ri- 
diculous. And why? Because they have nothing 
to do with the end for which the play is written. 
Tlie design of a piece might be utterly destroyed by 
the most natural incidents in the world. Boileau 
has somewhere criticized with what surely is a very 
just severity on Ariosto, for introducing a ludicrous 
tale from his host to one of the principal persons 
of his poem, thougli the story has great merit in 
its way. Indeed, that famous piece is so monstrous 
and extravagant in all its parts that one is not 
particularly shocked with this indecorum. But, as 
Boileau has observed, if Virgil had introduced 
-^neas listening to a bawdy story from his host, 
what an episode had tliis formed in that divine 
poem ! Sujjpose, instead of -(Eneas, he had repre- 
6ent(!d the impious Mezcntius as entertaining him- 
self in that manner ; such a tluiig would not have 
been without proI)ability, but it would have clashed 
witli tlie very first principles of taste, and, I would 
say, of common sense. 

I have licard of a celebrated picture of the Last 
Supper, — and if I do not mistake, it is said to l)e the 
work of ^ omo of tlie Flemish masters : in tliis picture 
all the personages arc drawn in a maimer suitable 




to the solemnity of the occasion ; but the pn'.;'ter has 
filled the void under tlic table with a dog gnawing 
bones. Who does not see tlie possibility of sucli an 
incident, and, at the same time, the absiird'ty of in- 
troducing it on sucli an occasion ? Innumerable such 
cases might be stated. It is not the incompatibility 
or agrceableness of incidents, characters, or senti- 
ments with the probable in fact, but with propriety in 
design, that admits or excludes tlicm from a place in 
any composition. "We may as well urge that stones, 
Band, clay, and metals lie in a certain manner in the 
earth, as a reason for building witli those materials 
and in that manner, as for writing accor<ling to the 
accidental disposition of characters in Nature. I 
have, I am afraid, been longer than it might se<^m 
necessary in refuting such a notion ; but such au- 
thority can only be opposed by a good deal of reason. 
We are not to forget that a play is, or ought to be, 
a very short composition ; that, if one passion or dis- 
position is to be wrought up witli tolerable success, I 
believe it is as much as can in any reason be expected. 
If there be scenes of distress and scenes of luunor, 
they must either be in a double or single plot. If 
there be a double plot, there are in fact two. If they 
be in checkered scenes of serious and comic, you are 
obliged continually to brcafe both the thread of the 
story and the continuity of the passion, — if in the 
same scene, as Mrs. V. seems to recommend, it is 
needless to observe how absurd the mixture must be, 
and how little adapted to answer the genuine end of 
any passion. It is odd to observe the progress of bad 
taste : for this mixed passion being universally pro- 
scribed in the regions of tragedy, it has taken rel'uge 
and shelter in comedy, wliere it seems firmly estab- 






: 1 ^ 





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lished, though no reason can be assigned why we may 
not laugh in the one as well as weep in the other. 
The true reason of this mixture is to be sought for in 
the manners which are prevalent amongst a people. 
It has become very fashionable to affect delicacy, ten- 
derness of heart, and fine feeling, and to shun all 
imputation of rusticity. Much mirth is very foreign 
to this character ; they have introduced, therefore, a 
sort of neutral writing. 

Now as to characters, they have dealt in them as 
in the passions. There are none but lords and foot- 
men. One objection to characters in high life is, tliat 
almost all wrnts, and a thousand happy circumstan- 
ces arising from them, being removed from it, their 
whole mode of life is too artificial, and not so fit for 
painting; and the contrary opinion has arisen from 
a mistake, that whatever has merit in the reality 
necessarily must have it in the representation. I 
have observed that persons, and especially women, in 
lower life, and of no breeding, are fond of such rep- 
resentations. It seems like introducing them into 
good company, and the honor compensates the dul- 
ness of the entertainment. 

Fashionable manners being fluctuating is another 
reason for not choosing them. — Sensible comedy, — 
talking sense a duU thing — .... 








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IN order : ) obtain a clear notion of the state of 
Europe before the universal prevalence of the 
Roman power, the wliolo region is to be divided i.ito 
two principal parts, which we shall cull Northern and 
Southern Europe. The northern part is everywhere 
separated from the southern by immense and coi - 
tinned chains of mountains. From Greece it is 
divided by Mount Haemus ; from Spain by the Pyr- 
enees ; from Italy by the Alps. This division is not 
made by an arbitrary or casual distribution of coun- 
tries. The limits are marked out by Nature, and in 
these early ages were yet further distinguished by a 
considerable difference in the manners and usages 
of the nations they divided. 

If we turn our eyes to the northward of these 
boundaries, a vast mass of solid continent lies be- 
fore us, stretched out from the remotest shore of 
Tartary quite to the Atlantic Ocean. A line drawn 
through this extent, from east to west, would pass 
over the greatest body of unbroken land that is any- 
where known upon tlie globe. Tliis tract, in a course 






1 1 I 

Mi ' ! 





of some degrees to the northward, is not interrupted 
hj any sea ; neither are the mountains so disposed as 
to form any considerable obstacle to hostile incur- 
sions. Originally it was all inhabited but by one 
sort of people, known by one common denomination 
of Scythians. As the several tribes of this compre- 
hensive name lay in many parts greatly exposed, and 
as by their situation and customs they were much in- 
clined to attack, and by both ill qualified for defence, 
throughout the whole of that immense region there 
was for many ages a perpetual flux and reflux of bar- 
barous nations. None of their commonwealths con- 
tmued long enough established on any particular spot 
to settle and to subside into a regular order, one tribe 
continually overpowering or thrusting out another. 
But as these were only the mixtures of Scythians 
with Scythians, the triumphs of barbarians over bar- 
barians, there were revolutions in empire, but none 
in manners. The Northern Europe, until some part;, 
of it were subdued by the progress of the Roman 
arms, remained almost equally covered with all- the 
ruggednv'iss of primitive barbarism. 

Tlie southern part was differently circumstanced. 
Divided, as we have said, from the uortliem by great 
mountains, it is further divided within itself by con- 
siderable seas. Spain, Greece, and Italy are penlraii- 
las. By these advantages of situation the inhibiUu.ts 
were preserved from those great and sudden revolu- 
tions to which the Northern world had been always 
liable ; and being confined within a space compar- 
atively narrow, they were restrained from wandering 
into a pastoral and unsettled life. It was upon one 
side only that they could be invaded by land. Who- 
ever made an attempt on any other part must neces- 




sarily have arrived in haips of some magnitude, and 
must thcrcforo have in a degree been cultivated, if 
not by tlie liberal, at least by the mechanic arts. In 
fact, the principal colonies which we find these coun- 
tries to have received were sent from Phoenicia, or 
the Lesser Asia, or Egypt, the great fountains of 
the ancient civility and learning. And they became 
more or less, earlier or later, polished, as they were 
situated nearer to or furtlicr from these cclcl)rated 
sources. Though I am satisfied, from a comparison 
of the Celtic tongues with the Greek and Roman, 
that the original inhabitants of Italy and Greece were 
of the same race with the people of Northern Europe, 
yet it is certain they profited so much by their guard- 
ed situation, by the mildness of their climate favora- 
ble to humanity, and by the foreign infusions, that 
they came greatly to excel the Northern nations m 
every respect, and particularly in the art and disci- 
pline of war. For, not being so strong in their bod- 
ies, partly from the temperature of their climate, 
partly from a degree of softness induced by a more 
culti\a.tcd life, they applied themselves to remove the 
few inconveniences of a settled society by the advan- 
tages which it affords in art, disposition, and obe- 
dience ; and as they consisted of many small states, 
their people were well exercised in arms, and sharp- 
ened against each other by continual war. 

Such was the situation of Greece and Italy from a 
very remote period. The Gauls and other Northern 
nations, envious of the r wealth, and despising the ef- 
feminacy of their manners, often invaded them witli 
numerous, thougl. Hi formed armies. But their g'-eat- 
cst and most frequent attempts were against Italy, 
their connection with which country alone we shall 

.' n 








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S^S Rochester. New York 14609 USA 

'■^^ (716) 482 - 0300 - Phone 

^= (716) 288 - 5989 - Fo. 



here consider. In the course of these wars, the 
superiority of the Roman discipline over the Gallic 
ferocity was at length demonstrated. Tlie Gauls, 
notwithstanding the numbers with which their irrup- 
tions were made, and the impetuous courage by 
which that nation was distinguished, had no perma- 
nent success. They were altogether unskilful either 
in improving their victories or repairing their defeats. 
But the Romans, being governed by a most wise or- 
der of men, perfected by a traditionary experience 
in the policy of conquest, drew some advantage from 
every turn of fortune, and, victorious or vanquished, 
persisted in one uniform and comprehensive plan of 
breaking to pieces everything which endangered their 
safety or obstructed their greatness. For, after hav- 
ing more than once expelled the Northern invaders 
out of Italy, they pursued them over the Alps ; and 
carrying the war into the country of their enemy, 
under several able generals, and at last under Caius 
Caesar, they reduced all the Gauls from the Mediter- 
ranean Sea to the Rhine and the Ocean. During the 
progress of this decisive war, some of the maritime 
nations of Gaul had recourse for assistance to the 
neighboring island of Britain. From thence they 
received considerable succors; by which means this 
island first came to be known with any exactness by 
the Romans, and first drew upon it the attention of 
that victorious people. 

Though Caesar had reduced Gaul, he perceived 
clearly that a great deal was still wanting to make 
his conquest secure and lasting. Th it extensive coun- 
try, inhabited by a multitude of populous and fierce 
nations, had been rather overrun than conquered. 
The Gauls were not yet broken to the yoke, which 



they bore with murmuring and discontent. The ruins 
of their own strength were still considerable ; and they 
had hopes that the Germans, famous for their invin- 
cible courage and their ardent love of liberty, would 
be at hand powerfully to second any endeavors for 
the recovery of their f"^edom ; they trusted that the 
Britons, of their own blood, allied in manners and re- 
ligion, and whose help they had lately experienced, 
would not then be wanting to the same cause. Caesar 
was not ignorant of the.^e dispositions. He therefore 
judged, that, if he could confine the attention of the 
Germans and Britons to their own defence, so that 
the Gauls, on which side soever they turned, should 
meet nothing but the Roman arms, they must soon 
be deprived of all hope, and compelled to seek their 
safety in an entire submission. 

These were the public reasons which made the 
invasion of Britain and Germany an undertaking, at 
that particular time, not unworthy a wise and able 
general. But these enterprises, though reasonable 
in themselves, were only subservient to purposes of 
more importance, and which he had more at heart. 
Whatever measures he thought proper to pursue on 
the side of Germany, or on that of Britain, it was 
towards Rome that he always looked, and to the fur- 
therance of his interest there that all his motions 
were really directed. That republic had receded 
from many of those maxims by which her freedom 
had been hitherto preserved under the weight of so 
vast an empire. Rome now contained many citizens 
of immense wealth, eloquence, and ability. Particu- 
lar men were more considered than the republic ; and 
the fortune and genius of the Roman people, which 
formerly had been thought equal to eveiything, came 

U ] 








Mir ,r 

= , V) 

now to be less relied upon than the abilities of a few 
popular men. The war with the Gauls, as the old 
and most dangerour enemy of Rome, was of the last 
importance ; and Caesar had the address to obtain 
the conduct of it for a term of years, contrary to one 
of the most established principles of their govern- 
ment. But this war was finished before that term 
was expired, and before the designs which he enter- 
tained against the liberty of his country were fully 
ripened. It was therefore necessary to find some pre- 
text for keeping his army on foot; it was necessa- 
ry to employ them in some enterprise that might at 
once raise his character, keep his interest alive at 
Rome, endear him to his troops, and by that means 
weaken the ties which held them to their country. 

From this motive, colored by reasons plausible and 
fit to be avowed, he resolved in one and the same 
year, and even when that was almost expired, upon 
two expeditions, the objects of which lay at a great 
distance from each other, and were as yet untouched 
by the Roman arms. And first he resolved to pass 
the Rhine, and penetrate into Germany. 

Caesar spent but twenty-eight days in his German 
expedition. In ten he built his admirable bridge 
across the Rhine ; in eighteen he performed all he 
proposed by entering that country. When the Ger- 
mans saw the barrier of their river so easily over- 
come, and Nature herself, as it were, submitted to the 
yoke, they were struck with astonishment, and never 
after ventured to oppose the Romans in the field. 
The most obnoxious of the German countries were 
ravaged, the strong awed, the weak taken into pro- 
tection. Thus an alliance being formed, always the 
first step of the Roman policy, and n*- only a pre- 




tence, but a means, being thereby acquired of en- 
tering the country upon any future occasion, he 
marched back through Gaul to execute a design of 
much the same nature and extent in Britain. 

The inhabitants of that island, who were divided 
into a great number of petty nations, under a very 
coarse and disorderly frame of government, did not 
find it easy to plan any eflfectual measures for their 
defence. In order, however, to gain time in 
this exigency, ihey sent ambassadors to Cae- 
sar with terms of submission. Caesar could not col- 
orably reject their offers. But as their submission 
rather clashed than coincided with his real designs, 
he still persisted in his resolution of passing over into 
Britain ; and accordingly embarked with the infantry 
of two legions at the port of Itium.* His landing was 
obstinately disputed by the natives, and brought on a 
very hot and doubtful engagement. But the superi- 
or dispositions of so accomplished a commander, the 
resources of the Roman discipline, and the effect of 
the military engines on the unpractised minds of a 
barbai-ous people prevailed at length over the best re- 
sistance which could be made by rude numbers and 
mere bravery. The place where the Romans first 
entered this island was somewhere near Deal, and 
the time fifty-five years befora the birth of Christ. 
The Britons, who defended their country with so 
much resolution in the engagement, immediately af- 
ter it lost all their spirit. They had laid no regu- 
lar plan for their defence. Upon their first failure 
they seemed to have no resources left. On the slight- 
est loss they betook themselves to treatj and sub- 
mission; upon the least appearance in their favor 

• Some think this port to be Witsand, others Boulogne. 








k ' 

'."• '; k! 

they were as ready to resume their arms, without 
any regard to their former engagements : a conduct 
which demonstrates that our British ancestors had 
no regular polity with a standing coercive power. 
The ambassadors whica they sent to Csesar laid all 
the blame of a war carried on by great armies upon 
the rashness of their young men, and they declared 
that the ruling people had no share in these hostil- 
ities. This is exactly the excuse which the savages 
of America, who have no regular government, make 
at this day upun the like occasions ; but it would bo 
a strange apology from one of the modern states of 
Europe that had employed armies against another. 
Caesar reprimanded them for the inconstancy of their 
behavior, and ordered them to bring hostages to se- 
cure their fidelity, together with provisions for his 
army. But whilst the Britons were engaged in the 
treaty, and on that account had free access to the 
Roman camp, they easily observed that the army of 
the invaders was neither numerous nor well provid- 
ed ; and having about the same time received iutelli- 
gcnce that the Roman fleet had suffered in a storm, 
they again changed their measures, and came to a 
resolution of renewing the war. Some prosperous 
actions against the Roman foraging pr rties inspired 
them with great confidence. They were betrayed by 
their success into a general action in the open field. 
Here the disciplined troops obtained an easy and 
complete victory ; and the Britons were taught the 
error of their conduct at the expense of a terrible 

Twice defeated, they had recourse once more to 
submission. Caesar, who found the winter approach- 
ing, provisions scarce, and his fleet not fit to contend 



with that rough and tempestuous sea in a whiter voy- 
age, hearkened to their proposals, exacting double 
the number of the former hostages. He then set sail 
with his whole army. 

In this first expedition into Britain, Caesar did not 
make, nor indeed could he expect, any considerabh 
advantage. He acquired a knowledge of the set 
coast, and of the country contiguous to it ; and he 
became acquainted with the force, the manner of 
fighting, and the military character of the people. 
To compass these purposes he did not think a part of 
the summer ill-bestowed. But early in the next he 
prepared to make a roore efiective use of the expe- 
rience he had gained. Hs embarked again at the 
same port, but with a n.ore numerous army. The 
Britons, on their part, had prepared more regularly 
for their defence in this than the former year. Sev- 
eral of those states which were nearest and most 
exposed to the danger had, during CsesarV ' -ence, 
c jmbined for their common safety, and c Cassi- 

belan, a chief of power and reputation, for the leader 
of their union. They seemed resolved to dispute the 
landing of the Romans with their former intrepidity. 
But when they beheld the sea covered, as far as the 
eye could reach, with the multitude of the enemy's 
ships, (for they were eight hundr>>d sail,) they de- 
spaired of defending the coast, they retired into the 
woods and fastnessc:, and Caesar landed his army 
without opposition. 

The Britons now saw the necessity of altering their 
former method of war. Thty no longer, therefon^, 
opposed the Romans in the open field ; thoy formed 
freqiient ambuscades; they divided themselves into 
light flying parties, and continually harassed the en- 






it 4 

I 'y 

I f .; 

r- ■', 

> .1' 

I / 

emy on his march. This plan, though in their cir- 
cumstances the most judicious, was attended with no 
great succ3ss. Cssar forced some of their strongest 
intrenchments, and then carried the war directly into 
the territories of Cassibelan. 

The only fordable passage which he could find over 
the Thames was defended by a row of palisadoos 
which lined the opposite bank ; another row of sharp- 
ened stakes stood under water along the middle of 
the stream. Some remains of these works long sub- 
sisted, and were to be discerned in the river • down 
almost to the present times. The Britons had made 
the best of the situation ; but the Romans plunged 
into the water, tore away the stakes and palisadoes, 
and obtained a complete victory. Tlio capital, or 
rather chief fastness, of Cassibelan was then taken, 
with a number of cattle, the wealth of this barbarous 
city. After these misfortunes the Britons were no 
longer in a condition to act with effect. Their ill- 
success in the field soon dissolved the ill-cemented 
union of their councils. They split into factions, and 
some of them chose the common enemy for their pro- 
tector, insomuch that, after some feeble and desulto- 
ry efforts, most of the tribes to the southward of 
the Thames submitted themselves to the conqueror. 
Cassibelan, worsted in so many encounters, and de- 
serted by his allies, was driven at lon^ih to sue for 
peace. A tribute was imposed ; and as the summer 
began to wear away, Caesar, having finished the war 
to his satisfaction, embarked for Gaul. 

The -fthole of Caesar's conduct in these two cam- 
paigns sufficiently demonstrates that he had no inten- 
tion of making an absolute conquest of any part of 

• Coway Stakes, near Kingston-on-Thames. 



Britain. Is it to be believed, that, if he liad formed 
Buch a design, lie would have left Britain without an 
army, without a legion, without a single cohort, to se- 
cure his conquest, and that he should sit down con- 
tented with an empty glory and the tribute of an in- 
digent people, without any proper means of securing 
a continuance of that small acquisition ? This is not 
credible. But his conduct here, as well as in Ger- 
many, discovers his purpose in botli expeditions : for 
by them he confirmed the Roman dominion in Gaul, 
"ined time to mature his designs, and he afforded 
arty in Rome an opportunity of promoting his 
ist and exaggerating his exploits, which they 

a in f oh a manner as to draw from the Senate 
a decree for a very remarkable acknowledgment of 
his services in a supplication or thanksgiving of 
twenty days. This attempt, not being pursued, stands 
single, and has little or no connection with the subse- 
quent events. 

Therefore I shall in this place, where the narrative 
will be the least broken, insert from the best authori- 
ties which are left, and the best conjectures which in 
so obscure a matter I am able to form, some account 
of the first peopling of this island, the manners of its 
inhabitants, their art of war, their religious and civil 
discipline. These are matters not only worthy of 
attention as containing a very remarkable piece of 
antiquity, but as not wholly unnecessary towards 
comprehending the great change made in all these 
points, when the Roman conquest came afterwards 
to be completed. 




i <)w ' 









I >' 







That Britain was first peopled from Gaul we aro 
assured by the best proofs, — proximity of situation, 
and resemblance in language and manners. Of the 
time in which this event happened we must be con* 
tented to remain in ignorance, for we have no monu- 
ments. But we may conclude that it was a very an- 
cient settlement, since the Carthaginians found this 
island inhabited when they traded hither for tin, — as 
the Phoenicians, whose tracks they followed in this 
commerce, are said to hare done long before them. 
It is true, that, when we consider the short interval 
between the universal deluge and that period, and 
compare it with the first settlement of men at such a 
distance from this corner of the world, it may seem 
not easy to reconcile such a claim to antiquity with 
the only authentic account we have of the origin and 
progress of mankind, — especially as in those early 
ages the whole face of Nature was extremely rude 
and uncultivated, when the links of commerce, even 
in the countries first settled, were few and weak, 
navigation imperfect, geography unknown, and the 
hardships of travelling excessive. But the spirit of 
migration, of which we have now only some faint 
ideas, was then strong and universal, and it fully 
compensated all these disadvantages. Many writers, 
indeed, imagine that these migrations, so common in 
the primitive times, were caused by the prodigious in- 
crease of people beyond what their several territories 
could maintain. But this opinion, far from being 





supported, is rather contradicted by the general ap- 
pearance of things in that early time, when in every 
country vast tracts of land were suffered to lie almost 
useless in morasses and forests. Nor is it, indeed, 
more countenanced by the ancient modes of life, no 
way favorable to population. I apprehend that these 
first settled countries, so far from being overstocked 
with inliabita- ts, were rather thinly peopled, and that 
the same causes which occasioned that thinness occa- 
f' -^d alco those frequent migrations which make so 
la a part of the first history of almost all nations. 
For ir these ages men subsisted chiefly by pasturage 
or hunting. These are occupations which spread the 
people without multiplying them in proportion ; they 
teacli them an extensive knowledge of the country : 
they carry them frequently and far from their homes, 
and weaken those ties which might attach them to 
any particular habitation. 

It was in a great degree from this manner of life 
that mankind became scattered in the earliest times 
over the whole g. >be. But their peaceful occupations 
did not contribute so much to that end as their wars, 
which were not the less .equent and violent because 
the people were few, and the interests for which they 
contended of but small importance. Ancient history 
has furnished us with many instances of whole nations, 
expellee, by invasion, falling in upon others, which 
thoy have entirely overwhelmed, — more irresistible 
in their defeat and ruin than in their fullest prosper- 
ity. The rights of war were then exercised with great 
inhumanity. A cruel death, »>r a servitude scarcely 
less cruel, was the certain fate ot ail conquered peo- 
ple ; the terror of which hurried men from habita- 
tions to which tliey were but little attached, to seek 




M ' 




security and repose uuder any climate that, however 
iu otiiur respects undesirable, might afford tlicm ref- 
uge frum tlie fury of their enemies. Thus the bloak 
and barren regions of the Nortli, not being peopled 
by choice, were peopled as early, hi all probability, as 
many of the milder and more inviting climates of the 
Soutliern world; and thus, by a wonderful dii^posi- 
tion of tlie Divine Providence, a life of bunting, 
which does not contribute to increa^o, and war, 
which is the great instrument in the destruction of 
men, were the two principal causes of their being 
spread so early and so universally over the whole 
eartli. From what is very commonly known of the 
state of North America, it need not be said how often 
and to what distance several of the nations on that 
continent are used to migrate, who, though thhily 
s-t'iit torcd, occupy an ' 'omense extent of country. Nor 
are the causes of ' is obvious, — their hunting life, 
and tiieir inhuman wars. 

Such migrations, sometimes by choice, more fre- 
quently from necessity, were common in the ancient 
world. Frequent necessities mtroduced a fashion 
which subsisted after the original causes. For how 
could it happen, but from some universally estab- 
lished public prejudice, which always overrules and 
stifles the private sense of men, that a whole nation 
should deliberately think it a wise measure to quit 
their country in a body, that they might obtain in a 
foreign land a settlement which must wholly depend 
upon the chance of war? Yet this resolution was 
taken and actually pursued by the entire nation of 
the Helvetii, as it is minutely related by Caesar. The 
method of reasoning which led them to it must ajv 
pear to us at tliis day utterly inconceivable. They 

r ^ . 



▼ero far from being compollod to this extraordinary 
migrotjon by any want of subsistence at homo ; for it 
appears that thoy raised, without difficulty, as mucli 
corn in one year as supported them for two; they 
could not complain of the barrenness of such a soil. 

This spirit of migration, which grew out of the an- 
cient manners and necessities, and sometimes oper- 
ated like a blind instinct, such as actuates birds of 
passage, is very lufficient to acco'"it for the ea V 
Iiabitation of the remotest parts of tiic earth, an< 
some sort also justifies that claim which his bcoi! 
fondly made by almost all nations to gr 'at nutiijuity. 

Gaul, from whence Britain was origina'i.' peopled, 
consisted of three nations: tl ■ i^clgae, to .i'.ds the 
north ; the Ccltse, in the midd.j v-ountrics : and the 
Aquitani, to the south. Britain appears to have re- 
ceived its people only from the two former. From 
the CcltsB were derived the most ancient tribes of the 
Britons, of which the most considerable were callri 
Brigantes. The Belgae, who did not even settle in 
Gaul until after Britain had been peopled by colonies 
from the former, forcibly drove the Brigantes into 
the inland countries, and possessed the greatest part 
of the coast, especially to the south and w st. These 
latter, as they entered the island in a more improved 
age, brought wit' -m the knowledge and practice 
of agriculture, wh.«. i, however, only prevailed in 
their own countries. The Brigantes still continued 
their ancient way of life by pasturage and hunting. 
In this respect alone they differed : so that what 
we shall say, in treating of their manners, is equally 
applicable to both. And though the Britons were 
further divided into an innumerable multitude of 
lesser tribes and nations, yet all being the branches 









« f 








H t 'i 





■: i n, 



r, )•) 

of these two stocks, it is not to our purpose to con- 
sider them more minutelj. 

Britain was in the time of Julius Caesar what it is 
at this day, in climate and natural advantages, tem- 
perate and reasonably fertile. But destitute of all 
those improvements which in a succession of ages it 
has received from ingenuity, from commerce, from 
riches and luxury, it then wore a very rough and 
savage appearance. The country, forest or marsh ; 
the habitations, cottages; the cities, hiding-places in 
woods ; the people naked, or only covered with skins ; 
their sole employment, pasturage and hunting. They 
painted their bodies for ornament or terror, by a cus- 
tom general amongst all savage nations, who, being 
jmssionately fond of show and finery, and having no 
object but their naked bodies on which to exercise 
this disposition, have in all times painted or cut their 
skins, according to their ideas of ornament. They 
shaved the beard on the chin ; that on the upper lip 
was suffered to remain, and grow to an extraordinary 
length, to favor the martial appearance, in wliich they 
placed their glory. They were in their natural tem- 
per not unlike the Gauls, impatient, fiery, inconstant, 
ostentatious, boastful, fond of novelty, — and like all 
barbarians, fierce, treacherous, and cruel. Their arms 
were short javelins, small shields of a slight texture, 
and great cutting swords with a blunt point, after 
the Gaulish fashion. 

Their chiefs went to battle in chariots, not unartful- 
ly contrived nor unskilfully managed. I cannot help 
thinking it something extraordinary, and not easi- 
ly to be accounted for, that the Britons should have 
been so expert in the fabric of those chariots, when 
they seem utterly ignorant in all other mechanic 




arts : but thus it is delivered to us, Tliey had also 
horse, though of no great reputation, in their armies. 
Their foot was without heavy armor ; it was no firm 
body, nor instructed to preserve their ranks, to make 
their evolutions, or to obey their commanders ; but 
in tolerating hardships, in dexterity of forming am- 
buscades, (the art military of savages,) they are said 
to have excelled. A natural ferocity and an impetu- 
ous onset stood them in the place of discipline. 

It is very difficult, at this distance of time, and 
with so little information, to discern clearly what 
sort of civil government prevailed among the ancient 
Britons. In all very uncultivated countries, as soci- 
ety is not close nor intricate, nor property very valu- 
able, liberty subsists with few restraints. The natu- 
ral equality of mankind appears and is asserted, and 
therofore there are but obscure lines of any form of 
government. In every society of this sort the natu- 
ral connections are the same as in others, though the 
political ties are weak. Among such barbarians, 
therefor , though there is little authority in the ma- 
gistrate, there is often great power lodged, or rather 
left, in the father: for, as among the Gauls, so among 
the Britons, he had the power of life and death in his 
own family, over his children and his servants. 

But among freemen and heads of families, causes 
of all sorts seem to have been decided by the Druids : 
they summoned and dissolved all the public assem- 
blies ; they alone had the power of capital punish- 
ments, and indeed seem to have had the sole exe- 
cution and interpretation of whatever laws subsisted 
among this people. In this respect the Celtic na- 
tions did not greatly differ from others, except that 
we view them in an earlier stage of society. Justice 




it • 

I a r 

was in all countries originally administered by the 
priesthood : nor, indeed, could laws in their first fee- 
ble state have either authority or sanction, so as to 
compel men to relinquish their natural independence, 
had they not appeared to come down to them en- 
forced by beings of more than human powci*. The 
first openings of civility have been everywhere made 
by religion. Amongst the Romans, the custody and 
interpretation of the laws continued solely in the col- 
lege of the pontiffs for above a century.* 

The time in which the Druid priesthood was insti- 
tuted is unknown. It probably rose, like other insti- 
tutions of that kind, from low and obscure beginnings, 
and acquired from time, and the labors of able men, 
a form by which it extended itself so far, and attained 
at length so mighty an influence over the minds of 
a fierce and otherwise ungovernable people. Of the 
place where it arose there is somewhat less dotilit: 
Cajsar mentions it as the common opinion that ; lis 
institution began in Britain, that there it always 
remained in the highest perfection, and that from 
thence it diffused itself into Gaul. I own I find it 
not easy to assign any tolerable cause why an order 
of so much authority and a discipline so exact should 
have passed from the more barbarous people to the 
more civilized, from the younger to the older, from 
the colony to the mother country : but it is not won- 
derful that the early extinction of this order, and 
that general contempt in which the Romans held all 
the barbarous nations, should have left these matters 
obscure and full of difficulty. 

Tlie Druids were ke\A. entirely distinct from the 
body of the people ; and they were exempted from all 

• Digest. Lib. I. Tit ii. De Origine et Progressu Juris^ § 6. 





the inferior and burdensome offices of society, that 
they might be at leisure to attend the important 
duties of their own charge. They were chosen out 
of the best families, and from the young men of the 
most promising talents : a regulation which placed 
and preserved them in a respectable light with the 
world. None were admitted into this order but after 
a long and laborious novitiate, whicli made the char- 
acter venerable in their own eyes by the time and 
difficulty of attaining it. They were much devoted 
to solitude, and thereby acquired that abstracted and 
thoughtful air which is so imposing upon the vulgar ; 
and when they appeared in public, it was seldom, 
and only on some great occasion, — in the sacrifices 
of the gods, or on the seat of judgment. They pre- 
scribed medicine ; tliey formed the youth ; they paid 
the last honors to the dead; they foretold events; 
they exercised themselves in magic. Tliey were at 
once the priests, lawgivers, and physicians of their na- 
tion, and consequently concentred in themselves all 
that respect that men have diffusively for those who 
heal their diseases, protect their property, or recon- 
cile them to the Divinity. What contributed not a 
little to the stability and power of this order was the 
extent of its foundation, and tlie regularity and pro- 
portion of its structure. It took in both sexes ; and 
the female Druids were in no less esteem for thoir 
knowledge and sanctity than the males. It was di- 
vided into several subordinate ranks and classes; ami 
they all depended upon a chief or Arch-Druid, who 
was elected to his place witli great authority and pre- 
eminence for life. Tliey were further armed with 
a power of interdicting from their sacrifices, or ex- 
communicating, any obnoxious persons. This intcr- 






: m 

diction, so similar to that used by the ancient Athe- 
nians, and to that since practised among Christians, 
was followed by an exclusion from all the benefits of 
civil community; and it was accordingly the most 
dreaded of all punishments. This ample authority 
was in general usefully exerted ; by the interposition 
of the Druids diflferences were composed, and wars 
ended ; and the minds of the fierce Northern people, 
being reconciled to each other under the influence of 
religion, imited with signal effect against their com- 
mon enemies. 

There was a class of the Druids whom they called 
Bards, who delivered in songs (their only history) 
the exploits of tlieir heroes, and who composed those 
verses which contained the secrets of Druidical disci- 
pline, their principles of natural and moral philoso- 
phy, their astronomy, and the mystical rites of their 
religion. These verses in all probability bore a near 
resemblance to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, — 
to those of Phocylides, Orpheus and other remnants 
of the most ancient Greek poets. The Druids, even 
•n Gaul, where they were not altogetlier ignorant of 
the use of letters, in order to preserve tlieir knowl- 
edge in greater respect, committed none of their pre- 
cepts to writing. The proficiency of their pupils was 
estimated principally by the number of technical 
verses which they retained in their memory: a cir- 
cumstance that shows this discipline rather calcu- 
lated to preserve with accuracy a few plain maxims 
of traditionary science than to improve and extend 
it. And this is not the sole circumstance which 
leads us to believe that among them learning had 
advanced no further than its infancy. 

The scholars of the Druids, like osc of Pythago- 

'I lii 



ras, were carefully enjoined a long and religious si- 
lence : for, if barbarians come to acquire any knowl- 
edge, it is rather by instruction than examination ; 
they must therefore be silent. Pythagoras, in the 
rude times of Greece, required silence in his disci- 
ples ; but Socrates, in the meridian of the Athenian 
refinement, spo^re less than his scholars : everything 
was disputed in the Academy. 

The Druids are said to be very expert in astron- 
omy, in .geography, and in all parts of mathematical 
knowledge ; and authors speak in a very exaggerat- 
ed strain of their excellence in these, and in many 
other sciences. Some elemental knowledge I sup- 
pose they had ; but I can scarcely be persuaded 
that their learr/.ng was eitl^er deep or extensive. 
In all countries wliere Eruidism was professed, the 
youth were generally instriicted by that order ; and 
yet was there little either in the manners of the peo- 
ple, in their way of life, or heir works of art, that 
demonstrates profoiind science or particularly math- 
ematical skill. Britain, where their discipline was 
in its highest perfection, and which was therefore 
resorted to by the people of Gaul as an oracle iu 
Druidical questions, was more barbarous in all oth- 
er respects than Gaul itself, or than any other coun- 
try then known in Europe. Those piles of rude 
magnificence, Stonehenge and Abury, are in vain 
produced in proof of their mathematical ability 
These vast ctrvtciures have nothing rriiir^h can oe 
admired, but the greatness of the work ; and they 
are not the only instances of the great things whicli 
the mere labor of many hands united, and perse- 
vering in their purpose, may accomplish with very 
little help from mechanics. This may be evinced 






! •' - I. 

im <,'] 

by the immense buildings and the L'V/" state of the 
Bciences among the original Peruvians. 

The Druids were eminent above all the philosophic 
lawgivers of antiquity for their care in impressiug 
the doctrine of the soul's immortality on the minds 
of their people, as an operative and leading princi- 
ple. This doctrine was inculcated on the scheme 
of Transmigration, which some imagine them to have 
derived from Pythagoras. But it is by no means 
necessary to resort to any particular teacher for an 
opinion which owes its birth to the weak struggles 
of unenlightened reason, and to mistakes natural 
to the human mind. The itlea of the soul's immor- 
tality is indeed ancient, universal, and in a man- 
ner inherent in our natui^; but it is not easy for 
a rude jeople to conceive any other mode of ex- 
istence than one similar to what they had experi- 
enced in life, nor any other world as the scene of 
such an existence but this we inhabit, beyond the 
bounds of which the mind extends itself with great 
difficulty. Admiration, indeed, was able to exalt to 
heaven a few selected heroes: it did not seem ab- 
surd that those who in their mortal state had dis- 
tinguished themselves as superior and overruling 
spirits should after death ascend to that sphere 
which influences and governs everything below, or 
that the proper abode of beings at once so illustrious 
and permanent should be in that part of Nature in 
which they had always observed the greatest splen- 
dor and the least mutation. But on orduiary oc- 
casions it was natural some should imagine that 
the dead retired into a remote country, separated 
from the living by seas or mountains. It was natu- 
ral that some should follow their imagination with 





a simplicitj still purer, and pursue the souls of men 
no further than the sepulchres in which their bodies 
had been deposited ; * whilst others of deeper pene- 
tration, observing that bodies worn out by age or 
destroyed by accident still afforded the materials 
for generating new ones, concluded likewise that a 
soul being dislodged did i .it wholly perish, but <.as 
destined, by a similar revolution in Nature, to act 
again, and to animate some other body. This last 
principle gave rise to the doctrine of Transmigra- 
tion : but we must not presume of course, that, where 
it prevailed, it necessarily excluded the other opin- 
ions ; for it is not remote from the usual procedure 
of the human mind, blending in obscure matters 
imagination and reasoning together, to unite ideas 
the most inconsistent. "When Homer represents the 
ghosts of his heroes appearing at the sacrifices of 
Ulysses, he supposes them endued with life, sensa- 
tion, and a capacity of moving ; but he has joined 
to these powers of living existence uncomeliness, 
want of strength, want of distinction, the charac- 
teristics of a dead carcass. This is what the mind 
is apt to do: it is very apt to confound the ideas 
of the surviving soul and the dead body. The 
vulgar have always and still do confound these very 
irreconcilable ideas. They lay the scene of appa- 
ritions in churchyards ; they habit the ghost in a 
shroud ; and it appears in all the ghastly paleness 
of a corpse. A contradiction of this kind has given 
rise to a doubt whether the Druids did in reality 
hold the doctrine of Transmigration. There is posi- 
tive testimony that they did hold it; there is also 
testimony as positive that they buried or burned 

* Cic. Tasc. Quest. Lib. L 







3 I 

' 1 

with tbo d^ad utensils, arms, slaves, and wliatovor 
might be judged useful to them, as if thoy were to 
be removed into a separate state. They might have 
held both these opinions ; and we ought not to be 
surprised to find error inconsistent. 

The objects of the Druid worship were many. In 
this respect they did not differ from other heathens : 
but it must be owned tliat in general their ideas of 
divine matters were more exalted than those of the 
Greeks and Romans, and that they did not fall into 
an idolatry so coarse and vulgar. That their gods 
should be represented under a human form they 
thought derogatory to beings uncreated and imper- 
ishable. To confine what can endure no limits with- 
in walls and roofs they judged absurd and impious. 
In these particulars there was something refined and 
suitable enough to a just idea of the Divinity. But 
the rest was not equal. Some notions they had, lilce 
the greatest part of mankind, of a Being eternal and 
infinite ; but they also, like the greatest part of man- 
kind, paid their worship to inferior objects, from the 
nature of ignorance and superstition always tending 

The first and chief objects of their worship were 
the elements, — and of the elements, fire, as the most 
pure, active, penetrating, and what gives life and 
energy to all the rest. Among fires, the preference 
was given to the sun, as the most glorious visible 
being, and the fountain of all life. Next they vener- 
ated the moon and the planets. After fire, water was 
held in reverence. This, when pure, and ritually 
prepared, was supposed to wash away all sins, and to 
qualify the priest to approach tlie altar of the gods 
with more acceptable prayers : washing with water 



being a type natural enough of inward ileansing and 
purity of mind. They also worshipped fountains and 
lakes and rivers. 

Oaks were regarded by this sect with a particular 
veneration, as, by their greatness, their shade, their 
stability, and duration, not ill representing the per- 
fections of the Deity. From the great reverence in 
which they held this tree, it is thought their name of 
Druids is derived : the word Deru, in the Celtic lan- 
guage, signifying an oak. But their reverence was 
not wholly confined to this tree. All forests were 
iield sacred; and many particular plants were re- 
spected, as endued with a particular holiness. No 
plant was more rjvered than the mistletoe, especially 
if it grew on the oak, — not only because it is rarely 
found upon that tree, but because the oak was among 
the Druids peculiarly sacred. Towards the end of the 
year they searched for this plant, and when it was 
found great rejoicing ensued; it was approached with 
reverence ; it was cut with a golden hook ; it was 
not suflFered to fall to the ground, but received with 
great care and solemnity upon a white garment. 

In ancient times, and in all countries, the profes- 
sion of physic was annexed to the priesthood. Men 
imagined that ail their diseases were inflicted by the 
immediate displeasure of the Deity, and therefore con- 
cluded that the remedy would most probably proceed 
from those who were particularly employed in his 
service. "Whatever, for the same reason, was found 
of efficacy to avert or cure distempers was considered 
as partaking somewhat of the Divinity. Medicine 
was always joined with magic : no remedy was ad- 
ministered without mysterious ceremony and incan- 
tation. The use of plants and herbs, both in medici- 






nal and magical practices, was early and general 
The mistletoe, pointed out by its very peculiar ap. 
pearance and manner of growth, must have struclj 
powerfully on the imaginations of a superstitioui 
people. Its virtues may have been soon discovered. 
It has been fully proved, against the opinion of 
Celsus, that internal remedies were of very early 
use.* Yet if it had not, the practice of the present 
savage nations supports the probability of that opin- 
ion. By some modern authors the mistletoe is said 
to be of signal service in the cure of cei-tain convul- 
sive distempers, which, by their suddenness, their vio- 
lence, and their unaccountable rymptoms, have been 
ever considered as supernatural. Tlie epilepsy was 
by the Romans for that reason called morbus tacer ; 
and all other nations have regarded it 'u the same 
light. Tlie Druids also looked upon vervain, and 
some otlier plants, as holy, and probably for a simi- 
lar reason. 

The other objects of the Druid worship were chief- 
ly serpents, in the animal world, and rude heaps of 
stone, or great pillars without polish or sculpture, in 
the inanimate. The serpent, by his dangerous quali- 
ties, is rot ill adapted to inspire terror, — by his an- 
nual renewals, to raise admiration, — by his make, 
easily susceptible of many figures, to serve for a va- 
riety of symbols, — and by all, to be an object of re- 
ligious observance : accordingly, no object of idolatry 
has been more universal.! And this is so natural, 

» See this point in the Divir.a Legation of Moses. 

t Ila/ja itavTi vofu^ofiivwv nap liiiv Otav oipts (TVfi^oKov fuya Kai 
livoTrjfjiov avaypd(f>iTai. — J aslin Martyr, in Stillingfleet's Origines 



that Borpent-Teneration sooms to be rising again even 
in the bosom of Mahometanisra.* 

Tlie great stones, it has boon supposed, were origi- 
nally inouumeuts of illustrious men, or tho memorials 
of considerable actions, — or they were landmarks for 
deciding the bounds of fiicd property. In time tho 
memory of the persons or facts which tliese stones 
were erected to perpetuate wore away ; but tho rev- 
erence which custom, and probably certain periodical 
ceremonies, had preserved for those places was not 
60 soon obliterated. Tlio monuments themselves theu 
came to be venerated, — and not the less because 
the reason for venerating them was no longer known. 
The landmark was in those times held sacred on ao- 
cou.'t of its great uses, and easily passed into an ob- 
ject 01 worship. Hence the god Terminus amongst 
the Romans. This religious observance towards rude 
stones is one of the most ancient and universal of all 
customs. Traces of it are to be found in almost all, 
and especially in these Northern nations ; and to this 
day, in Lapland, where heathenism is not yet entirely 
extirpated, their chief divinity, which they call Stor- 
junkare, is nothing more than a rude stone.f 

Some writers among the moderns, because the 
Druids ordinarily made no use of images in their 
worship, have given into an opi?>' ^- their re- 

ligion was founded on the unity .- Godliead. 

But this is no just consequence, ^ne spirituality 
of the idea, admitting their idea to have been spir- 
itual, does not infer tlie unity of the object. All 
tho ancient authors who speak of this order agree, 
that, besides those great and more distinguishing ob- 

• Nordcn'B Travels. 

t Schefler'a Lapland, p. 92, the translation. 





. / 

■ ',1 


jects of their worship alroadjr mentioned, they had 
gods answerable to those adored by tlie Pomans. 
And we know that the Northern nations, who over- 
ran ilio Roman Empire, had in fact a groat plurality 
of gods, whose attributes, though not their names, 
bore a close analogy to the idols of the Southern 

The Druids performed the highest act of religion 
by sacrifice, agi t-ably to the custom of all other 
nations. They not only offered up beasts, but even 
human victims: a barbarity almost universal in the 
heathen world, but exercised more uniformly, and 
with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, amongst those 
nations where the religion of the Druids prevailed. 
They held that the life of a man was the only atone- 
ment for the life of a man. They frequently inclosed 
a number of wretches, some captives, some criminals, 
and, when these were wanting, even innocent victims, 
in a gigantic statue of wicker-work, to which they set 
fire, and invoked their deities amidst the horrid cries 
and shrieks of the sufferers, and the shouts of those 
who assisted at this tremendous rite. 

There were none among the ancients more eminent 
for all the arts of divination than the Druids. Many 
of the superstitious practices in use to this day among 
the country people for discovering their future for- 
tune P' ■ a to be remains of Druidism. Futurity is 
the great concern of mankind. Whilst the wise and 
learned look back upon experience and liistory, and 
reason from things past about events to come, it is 
natural for the rude and ignorant, who have the 
same desires without the same reasonable means 
of satisfaction, to inquire into the secrets of futu- 
rity, and to govern their conduct by omens, dreams, 





and prodigies. The Druids, as woU as the Etruscan 
and Roman priesthood, attoudod T.'ith diligence the 
flight of birds, the pocking of chickens, and the on> 
trails of their animal sacrifices. It was obvious that 
no contemptible prognostics of the weather wee to 
bo taken from certain motions aw^ appearances in 
birds and beasts.* A people who liveu mostly in 
the open air must have been well skilled in these 
observations. And as changes in the weather influ- 
enced much the fortune of their huntings or their 
harvests, which were all their fortunes, it was asy 
to apply the same prognostics to every ^vent by a 
transition very natural and common ; and thus prob- 
ably arose the science of auspices, which formerly 
guided the deliberations of councils and the motions 
of armies, though now thej* only servu, and scarcely 
serve, to amuse the vulgar. 

The Druid temple is represented to have been 
uOthing more than a consecrated wood. The an- 
cients speak of no other. But monuments remain 
which show that the Druids wore not in this ro«nect 
wholly confined to groves. Thc7 had also a .-pecies 
of building which in all probability was destined to 
religious use. This sort of structure was, indeed, 
without walls or roof. It was a colonnade, general- 
ly circular, of huge, rude stones, sometimes single, 
sometimes double, sometimes with, often without, an 
architrave. These open temples were not m all re- 
spects peculiar to the Northern nations. Those of 
the Greeks, which were dedicatee' to the celestial 
gods, ought in strictness to have had no roof, and 
were thence called hypcethra.\ 

* Cic. de Divinatione, Lib. I. 

t Decor .... perlicitar statione, 

cum Jori Folgnri, et 




. I II 

1 i 

Many of these monuments remain in the British 
islands, curious for their antiquity, or astonishing for 
the greatness of the work : enormous masses of rock, 
so poised as to be set in motion with the slightest 
touch, yet not to be pushed from their place by a 
very great power ; vast altars, peculiar and mystical 
in their structure, thrones, basins, heaps or cairns ; 
and a variety of other works, displaying a wild in- 
dustry, and a strange mixture of ingenuity and rude- 
ness. But they are all worthy of attention, — not on- 
ly as such monuments often clear up the darkness 
and supply the defects of history, but as they lay 
open a noble field of speculation for those who study 
the changes which have happened in the manners, 
opinions, and sciences of men, and who think them 
as worthy of regard as the fortune of wars and the 
involutions of kingdoms. 

The short account which I have here given does 
not contain the whole of what is handed down to us 
by ancient writers, or discovered by modern research, 
concerning this remarkable order. But I have se- 
lected those which appear to me the most striking 
features, and such as throw the strongest light on 
the genius and true character of the Druidical in- 
stitution. In some respects it was undoubtedly very 
singular ; it stood out more from the body of the 
people than the priesthood of other nations; and 
their knowledge and policy appeared the more strik- 
ing by being contrasted with the great simplicity and 
rudeness of the people over whom they presided. 
But, notwithstanding some peculiar appearances and 

Coelo, et Soli, et Lunee sdificia sub divo hypxthraque constitucntar. 
Horura enim deorum et species ct effectas in aperto mnndo atque In- 
ccnti prxsentes vidcmus. — Vitruv. de Architect, p. 6. de Laet. Ant- 




practices, it is impossible not to perceive a great con- 
formity between this and the ancient orders which 
have been established for the purposes of religion in 
almost all countries. For, to say nothing of the re- 
semblance which many have traced between this and 
the Jewish priesthood, the Persian Magi, and the In- 
dian Brahmans, it did not so greatly differ from tha 
Roman priesthood, either in the original objects or 
in the general mode of worship, or in the constitution 
of their hierarchy. In the original institution neither 
of these nations had the use of images ; the rules of 
the Salian as well as Druid discipline were delivered 
in verse ; both orders were under an elective head ; 
and both were for a long time the lawyers of their 
country. So that, when the order of Druids was 
suppressed by the Emperors, it was rather from a 
dread of an influence incompatible with the Roman 
government than from any dislike of their religious 




The death of Caesar, and the civil wars which en- 
sued, afforded foreign nations some respite from the 
Roman ambition. Augustus, having restored peace 
to mankind, seems to have made it a settled maxim 
of his reign not to extend tlie Empire. He found 
himself at the head of a new monarchy ; and he was 
more solicitous to confirm it by the institutions of 
sound policy than to extend the bounds of its domin- 
ion. In consequence of this plan Britain was neg- 





<" f't;' 

'^= >li.i 

- ■ 

Tiberius came a regular successor to an established 
government. But his politics were dictated rather by 
his character than his situation. He was a lawful 
prince, and he acted on the maxims of an usurper. 
Having made it a rule never to remove far from the 
capital, and jealous of every reputation which seemed 
too great for the measure of a subject, he neither un- 
dertook any enterprise of moment in his own person 
nor cared to commit the conduct of it to another. 
There was little in a British triumph that could af- 
fect a temper like that of Tiberius. 

His successor, Caligula, was not influenced by this, 
nor indeed by any regular system ; lor, having un- 
dertaken an expedition to Britain without any deter- 
minate view, he abandoned it on the point of execu- 
tion without reason. And adding ridicule to his dis- 
grace, his soldiers returned to Rome loaded with 
shells. These spoils he displayed as the ornaments 
of a triumpli which he celebrated over the Ocean, — 
if in all these particulars we may trust to the histo- 
rians of that time, who relate things almost incredible 
of the folly of their masters and the patience of the 
Roman people. 

But the Roman people, however degenerate, still 
retained much of their martial spirit; and as the 
Emperors held their power almost entirely by the 
affection of the soldiery, they found themselves often 
obliged to such enterprises as might prove tliem no 
improper heads of a military constitution. An expe- 
dition to Britain was well adapted to answer all the 
purposes of this ostentatious policy. The country 
was remote and little known, so that every exploit 
there, as if achieved in another world, appeared at 
Rome with double pomp and lustre ; whilst the sea, 




which divided Britain from the continent, prevented 
a failure in that island from being followed by any 
conseqnonces alarming to the body of the Empire. 
A pretext was not wanting to this war. The mari- 
time Britons, while the terror of the Roman arms 
remained fresh upon their minds, continued regu- 
larly to pay the tribute imposed by Caisar. But the 
generation which experienced that war having passed 
away, that which succeeded felt the burden, but 
knew from rumor only the superiority which had 
imposed it; and being very ignorant, as of all things 
else, so of the true extent of the Roman po^v^r, they 
were not afraid to provoke it by discontin.)i;ig the 
payment of the tribute. 

This gave occasion to the Emperor Clau- ^^^ 
dins, ninety-seven years after the first expe- 
dition of Cajsar, to invade Britain in person, and with 
a great army. But he, having rather surveyed than 
conducted the war, left in a short time the manage- 
ment of it to his legate, Plautius, who subdued with- 
out much difficulty those countries whici; lay to the 
southward of the Thames, the best cultivated and most 
accessible parts of the island. But the inhabitants of 
the rough inland countries, the people called Cattivel- 
launi, made a more strenuous opposition. They were 
under the command of Caractacus, a chief of great 
and just renown amongst all the British nations. 
This leader wisely adjusted his conduct of the Avar to 
the circumstances of his savage subjects and his rude 
country. Plautius obtained no decisive advantages 
over him. He opposed Ostorius Scapula, who suc- 
ceeded that general, with the same bravery, but with 
unequal success ; for he was, after various turns of 
fortune, obliged to abandon his dominions, which Os- 
torius at length subdued and disarmed. 





,.» . 

. % 

This bulwark of *he British freedom being over- 
turned, Ostorius was not afraid to enlarge his plan. 
Not content with disarming the enemies ot Rome, 
he proceeded to the same extremities with those na- 
tions who had been always quiet, and who, under 
the name of an alliance, lay ripening for subjection. 
This fierce people, who looked upon their arms as 
their only valual)le possessions, refused to submit 
to terms as severe as the most absolute conquest 
could impose. They unanimously entered into a 
league against the Romans. But their confederacy 
was either not sufficiently strong or fortunate to re- 
sist so able a commander, and only afforded him an 
opportunity, from a more comprehensive victory, to 
extend the Roman province a considerable way to 
the uortliern and western parts of the island. Tlio 
frontiers of this acquisition, which extended along 
the rivers Severn and Nen, he secured by a chain 
of forts and stations; the inland parts he quieted 
by the settlement of colonies of his veteran troops 
at Maldon and Verulam: and such was the begin- 
ning of those establishments which afterwards be- 
came so numerous in Britain. This commander was 
the first who traced in this island a plan of settle- 
ment and civil policy to concur with his military 
operations. For, after he '-ad settled these colonies, 
considering with what difficulty any and especially 
an uncivilized people are broke into suliinissiou to 
a foreign government, he imposed it on some of the 
most powerful of the Britisli nations in a more in- 
direct manner. He placed them under kings of 
their own race ; and whilst he paid this compliment 
to their pride, he secured their obedience by the 
interested fidelity of a prince who knew, that, as he 



owed the beginning, so he depended for the durar 
tion of his authority wholly upon their favor. Such 
was the dignity and extent of the Roman policy, 
that they could number even royalty itself amongst 
their instruments of servitude. 

Ostorius did not confine himself within the boun- 
daries of these rivers. He observed that the Silures, 
inhabitants of South Wales, one of the most martial 
tribes in Britain, were yet unhurt and almost \m- 
touched by the war. He could expect to make no 
progress to the northward, whilst an enemy of such 
importance hung upon his rear, — especially as they 
were now commanded by Caractacus, who preserved 
the spirit of a prince, though he ad lost his do- 
minions, and fled from nation t ion, wherever 
he could find a banner erected aj. the Romans. 
His character obtaintd him reception and command. 

Tliough the Silures, thus headed, did everything 
that became their martial reputation, both in the 
choice and defence of their posts, the Romans, by 
their discipline and the weight and excellence of 
their arms, prevailed over the naked bravery of this 
gallant people, and defeated them in a great 
battle. Caractacus was soon after betrayed 
into their hands, and conveyed to Borne. The merit 
of '' ^rifeoncr was the sole ornomeut of a triumph 
ct 3d over an indigent people headed by a gal- 

lau ...ief. The Roi..ans crowded eagerly to behold 
the man who, with inferior forces, and in an obscure 
corner of the world, had so many years stood up 
against the weight of their empire. 

As the arts of adulation improved in proportion 
as the real grandeur of Rome declined, this advan- 
tage was compared to the greatest conquests in the 


f m 



VOL. Vll. 





most flourishing times of the Republic: and so far 
as regarded the personal merit of Caractacus, it 
could not be too highly rated. Being brought be- 
fore the emperor, he behaved with such manly for- 
titude, and spoke of Iiis former actions and his pres- 
ent condition with so much plain sense and unaf- 
fected dignity, that he moved the compassion of the 
emperor, wh(. remitted much of that severity which 
the Romans formerly exercised upon their captives. 
Rome was now a monarchy, and that fierce repub- 
lican spirit was abated which had neither feeling 
nor respect for the character of unfortunate sover- 

The Silures were not reduced by the loss of Ca- 
ractacus, and the great defeat they had suffered. 
They resisted every mep.sure of force or artifice that 
could be employed against them, with the most gen- 
erous obstinacy: a resolution in which they were 
confirmed by some imprudent words of the legate, 
threatening to extirpate, or, wliat appeared to them 
scarcely less dreadful, to transplant their nation. 
Their natural bravery thus hardened into despair, 
and inhabiting a country very difficult of access, they 
presented an impenetrable barrier to the progress of 
that commander; insomuch that, wasted with con- 
tinual cares, and with the mortification to find the 
end of his affairs so little answerable to the splendor 
of their beginning, Ostorius died of grief, and left all 
things in confusion. 

The legates who succeeded to his charge did little 
more for about sixty years than secure the frontiers 
of the Roman province. But in the beginning of 
Nero's reign the command in Britain was devolved 
on Suetonius Taulinus, a soldier of merit and expe- 



rience, who, when ho came to view the theatre of his 
future operations, and had well considered the nature 
of the country, discerned evidently that the war must 
of necessity be protracted to a great length, if he 
should be obliged to penetrate into every fastness to 
which the enemy retired, and to combat their flying 
parties one by one. He therefore resolved to make 
such a blow at the head as miist of course disable all 
the inferior members. 

The island then called Mona, now Anglesey, at 
that time was the principal residence of the Druids. 
Here their councils were held, and their comp^ ,nds 
from hence were dispersed among all tlie British na- 
tions. Paulinus proposed, in reducing this their fa- 
vorite and sacred seat, to destroy, or at least greatly 
to weaken, the body of the Druids, and thereby to ex- 
tinguish the great actuating principle of all the Celtic 
people, and that which was alone capable of commu- 
nicating order and energy to their operations. 

Whilst ;lie Roman troops were passing that strait 
which divides this island from the continent of Brit- 
ain, they halted on a sudden, — not checked by the 
resistance of the enemy, but suspended by a specta- 
cle of an unusual and altogether surprising nature. 
On every side of the British army were seen bands of 
Druids in their most sacred habits surrounding the 
troops, lifting their hands to heaven, devoting to 
death their enemies, and animating their disciples to 
religious frenzy by the ancoutli ceremonies of a sav- 
age ritual, and the horrid mysteries of a superstition 
familiar with blood. Tlie female Druids also moved 
about in a troubled order, their hair dislievellcd, 
their garments torn, torches in tlieir liands, and, 
with an liorror increased by the perverted softness 

■i V 




h ' 

A -,' 

of their sex, howled cut the same curses and incanta- 
tions with greater clamor.* Astonished at this sight, 
the Romans for some time neither advanced nor re- 
turned the darts of the enemy. But at length, rous- 
ing from their trance, and animating each other with 
the shame of yielding to the impotence of female and 
fanatical fury, they found the resistance by no means 
proportioned to the horror and solemnity of the prep- 
arations. These overstrained efforts had, as frequent- 
ly happens, exhausted the spirits of the men, and sti- 
fled that ardor they were intended to kindle. The 
Britons were defeated ; and Paulinus, pretending to 
detest the barbarity of their superstition, in reality 
from the cruelty of his own nature, and that he might 
cut off the occasion of future disturbances, exercised 
the most unjustifiable severities on this unfortunate 
people. He burned the Druids in their own fires; 
and that no retreat might be afforded to that order, 
their consecrated woods were everywhere destroyed. 
Whilst he was occupied in this service, a general re- 
bellion broke out, which his severity to the Druids 
served rather to inflame than allay. 

Prom the manners of the republic a custom had 
been ingrafted into the monarchy of Rome altogether 
unsuitable to that mode of government. In the time 

* There is a cnrions instance of a ceremony not nnlike this in a 
firagment of an ancient Knnic history, which it may not be disagree- 
able to compare with this part of the British manners. <• Ne vero 
regem ex improvise adoriretnr Ulafos, admoto sacculo sno, eundem 
qnatere coepit, carmcu simol magicnm obmnrmnrans, hac rerbomm 
formula : Dariter increpetnr cum tonitra ; stringant Cyclopia tela ; in- 
jiciant manam ; . . . . acriter excipient monticolas genii pin 
rimi, atqne gigantes .... contundent ; qnatient ; procella .... 
disrumpent lapides naviginm ejns . . . ."— Hickesii Thesanr. Vol. 
n. p. 140. 

^ id 



of the Common wealth, those who lived in a depend- 
ent and cliental relation on the great men used fre- 
quently to show marks of their acknowledgment hy 
considerable bequests at their death. But when all 
the scattered powers of that state became united in 
the rmperor, these legacies followed the general cur- 
rent, and flowed in upon the common patron. In 
the will of every considerable person he inherited 
with the c! Udren and relations, and such devises 
foraed no inconsiderable part of his revenue: a 
monstrous practice, which let an absolute sovereign 
into -xll the private concerns of his subjects, and 
which, by giving the prince a prospect of one day 
sharing in all the great estates, whenever he was 
urged by avarice or necessity, naturally pointed out 
a resource by an anticipation always in his power. 
This practice extended into the provinces. A king 
of the Iceni • had devised a considerable part of his 
substance to the emperor. But the Roman procura- 
tor, not satisfied with entering into his master's por- 
tion, seized upon the rest — and pursuing his injus- 
tice to the most horrible outrages, publicly scourged 
Boadicea, queen to the deceased prince, and violated 
his daughters. These cruelties, aggravated by the 
shame and scorn that attended them, — the general 
severity of the government, — the taxes, (new to a 
barbarous people,) laid on without discretion, extort- 
ed without mercy, and, even when respited, made 
utterly ruinous by exorbitant usury, — the further 
mischiefs they had to dread, when more completely 
reduced, — all these, with the absence of the legate 
end the army on a remote expedition, provoked all 
the tribes of the Britons, provincials, allies, encnies, 

* Inhabitants of Norfolk and Suffolk. 



i • .y 



to a general insurrection. The command of this con- 
federacy was conferred on Boadicea, as the first in 
rank, and resentment of injuries. They began by 
cutting ofT a Roman legion ; then they fell upon the 
colonies of Camelodunum and Yerulam, and with a 
barbarous fury butchered the Romans and their ad- 
herents to the number of seventy thousand. 

An end had been now put to the Roman pow<ir in 
this island, if Paulinus, with unexampled vigor and 
prudence, had not conducted his army through the 
midst of the enemy's country from Anglesey to Lon- 
don. There uniting the soldiers that remained dis- 
persed in different garrisons, he formed an army of 
ten thousand men, and marched to attack the enemy 
in the height of their success and security. The ar- 
my of the Britons is said to have amounted to two 
hundred and thirty thousand; but it was ill com- 
posed, and without choice or order, — women, boys, 
old men, priests, — full of presumption, tumult, and 
confusion. Boadicea was at their h^ad, — a woman 
of masculine spirit, but precipitant, and without any 
military knowledge. 

The event was such as might have been expecte '. 
Paulinus, having chosen a situation favorable to the 
smallness of his numbers, and encouraged his troops 
not to dread a multitude whose weight was danger- 
ous only to themselves, piercing into the midst of 
tliat disorderly crowd, after a blind and furious re- 
sistance, obtained a complete victory. Eighty thou- 
sand Britons fell in this battle. 

Paulinus improved the terror this slaugh- 
ter had produced by the unparalleled severi- 
ties which he exercised. This method would proba- 
bly have succeeded to subdue, but at the same time 

A.D. 81. 





to doponulata the nation, if such loud complaints 
had not been made at Rome of the legate's cruelty 
as procured his recall. 

Three successive legates carried on the affairs of 
Britain during the latter part of Nero's reign, and 
during the troubles occasioned by the disputed suc- 
cession. But they were all of an inactive character. 
The victory obtained by Paulinus had disabled the 
Britons from any new attempt. Content, therefore, 
with recovering the Roman province, these generals 
compounded, as it were, with the enemy for the rest 
of the island. They caressed the troops; they in- 
dulged them in their licentiousness ; and not being 
of a character to repress the seditions that continu- 
ally arose, they submitted to preserve their ease and 
some shadow of authority by sacrificing the most ma- 
terial parts of it. And thus they continued, soldiers 
and commanders, by a sort of compact, in a common 
neglect of all duty on the frontiers of the Empire, in 
the face of a bold and incensed enemy. 

But when Vespasian arrived to the head ^ ^^ 
of affairs, he caused the vigor of his govern- 
ment to be felt in Britain, as ho had done in all the 
other parts of the Empire. He was not afraid to re- 
ceive great services. His legates, Corealis and Fron- 
tinus, reduced the Silures and Brigantes, — one the 
most warlike, the other the most numerous people 
in .<) island. But its final reduction and ^ ^^^ 
perfect settlement were reserved for Julius 
Agricola, a man by whom it was a happiness for the 
Britons to be conquered. He was endued with all 
those bold and popular virtues which would have 
given him the first place in the times of the free 
Republic ; and he joined to them all that reserve 








■' M 

and moderation which enabled him to fill great of- 
ficos with safotj, and made him a good subject luider 
a jealous despotism. 

Though the summer was almost spent when he 
arrived in Britain, knowing how much the vigor and 
success of the first stroke influences all subsequent 
measures, ho entered immediately into action. Af- 
ter reducing some tribes, Mona became the principal 
object of his attention. Tlie cruel mv?/;. <« of Pai;- 
linus had not entirely efiaced the idea of sanctity 
which the Britons by a long course of hereditary rev- 
erence had annexed to that island: it became once 
more a place of consideration by the return of the 
Druids. Here Agricola observed a conduct very dif- 
ferent from that of his predecesgor, Pauliuus : the 
island, when he had reduced it, was treated with 
lat lenity. Agricola was a man of humanity and 
-ue : he pitied the condition and respected the prej- 
udices of the conquered. This behavior facilitated 
the progress of his arms, insomuch that in less than 
two campaigns all the British nations comprehended 
in what we now call England yielded themselves to 
the Roman government, as soon as they found that 
peace was no longer to be considered as a dubious 
blessing. Agricola carefully secured the obedience of 
the conquered people by building forts and stations in 
the most important and commanding places. Having 
taken these precautions for securing liis rear, ho ad- 
vanced northwards, and, penetrating into Caledonia 
as far as the river Tay, he there built a prcetentura, or 
lino of forts, between the two friths, which are in that 
place no more than twenty miles asunder. The ene- 
my, says Tacitus, was removed as it were into anoth- 
er island. And this line Agricola seems to have des- 

▲BBiDOMDrr or oube histobt. 


tined as the boundary of the Empire. For though in 
the following year he carried bis arms further, and, aa 
it is thought, to the foot of the Grampian Mountains, 
and there defeated a confederate army of the Caledo- 
nians, headed by Oalgacus, one of their most famous 
chiefs, yet he built no fort to the northward of this 
line : a measure wliich he never omitted, when he in- 
tended to preserve his conquests. The expedition of 
tliat summer was probably designed only to disable 
the Ouledoniaus from «ttompting anything against 
this barrier. But he left them their mountains, 
their arms, and their liberty : a policy, perhaps, not 
altogether worthy of so able a commander. He miglit 
the more easily have completed the conquest of the 
whole island by means of the fleet wliich he equipped 
to cooperate with his land forces in that expedition. 
This fleet sailed quite round Britain, whicli 
had 11 ' been before, by any certain proof, 
known to be an island : a circumnavigation, i-.i that 
immature state of naval skill, of little less fame than 
a voyage round the globe in the present nge. 

In the interval between his campaigns Agiicola was 
employed in the great labors of peace. He know that 
the general must be i)erfected by the legislator, and 
that the conquest is neither permanent nor honorable 
which is only an introduction to tyranny. His first 
care was the regulation of his household, wliicli un- 
der former legates had been always full of faction 
and intrigue, lay heavy on the province, and was 
as difficult to govern. He never suffered his pri- 
vate partialities to intrude into the conduct of public 
business, nor ' i appointing to employments did he 
permit solicitation to supply the place of merit, wisely 
sensible that a proper choice of ofiicers is almost the 

■' > 







, f \t.-- li 

.V .•. 

' tj 


whole of government. He eased the tribute of the 
province, not so much by reducing it in quantity as 
by cutting off all those vexatious practices which at- 
tended the levying of it, far more grievous than the 
imposition itself. Every step in securing the subjec- 
tion of the conquered country was attended with the 
utmost care in providing for its peace and internal or- 
der. Agricola reconciled the Britons to the Roman 
government by reconciling them to the Roman man- 
ners. He moulded that fierce nation by degrees to 
soft and social customs, leading them imperceptibly 
into a fondness for baths, for gardens, for grand 
houses, and all the commodious elegancies of a culti- 
vated life. He diffused a grace and dignity over this 
new luxury by the introduction of literature. He 
invited instructors in all the arts and sciences from 
Rome ; and he sent the principal youth of Britain to 
that city to be educated at his own expense. In 
short, he subdued the Britons by civilizing them, 
and made them exchange a savage liberty for a po- 
lite and easy subjection. His conduct is the most 
perfect model for those employed in the unhappy, 
but sometimes necessary task, of subduing a rude 
and free people. 

Thus was Britain, after a struggle of fifty-four 
years, entirely bent under the yoke, and moulded 
into the Roman Empire. How so stubborn an op- 
position could have been so long maintained against 
the greatest power on earth by a people ill armed, 
worse united, without revenues, without discipline, 
has justly been deemed an object of wonder. Au- 
thors are generally contented with attributing it to 
the extraordinary bravery of the ancient Britons. 
But certainly the Britons fought with armies as 




bravo as the world ever saw, with superior disci- 
pline, and more plentiful resources. 

To account for this opposition, we must have re- 
course to the general character of the Roman politica 
at this time. War, during this period, was carried 
on upon principles very different from those that 
actuated the Republic. Then one uniform spirit ani- 
mated one body through whole ages. With whatever 
state they were engaged, the war was so prosecuted 
as if the republic could not subsist, unless that par- 
ticular enemy were totally destroyed. But when the 
Roman dominion had arrived to as great an extent 
as could well be managed, and that the ruling power 
had more to fear from disaffection to the government 
than from enmity to the Empire, with regard to for- 
eign affairs common rules and a moderate policy took 
place. War became no more than a sort of exercise 
for the Roman forces.* Even whilst they were de- 
claring war they looked towards an accommodation, 
and were satisfied with reasonable terms when they 
concluded it. Their politics were more like those 
of the present powers of Europe, where kingdoms 
seek rather to spread their influence than to extend 
their dominion, to awe and weaken ratiier than to 
destroy. Under unactive and jealous princes the 
Roman legates seldom dared to push the advantages 
they had gained far enough to produce a dangerous 
reputation. f They wisely stopped, when they came 
to the verge of popularity. And these emperors fear- 
ing as much from the generals as their generals from 

* Rem Romanam hoc satietate gloriae provcctam, at externia quo- 
qae gcntibus quictcm vclit. — Tacit. Annal. XII. II. 

t Nam duces, ubi impetrando triuniphalium insigni sufficere re« 
Boaa credideraut, hostcm omittebant — Tacit. Annul. IV. 23. 

' '■' ; '*-i.i 





! .! 


them, such frequent changes were made in the com- 
mand that the war was never systematically carried 
on. Besides, the change of emperors (and their 
reigns were not long) almost always brought on a 
change of measures ; and the councils even of the 
same reign were continually fluctuating, as opposite 
court fictions happened to prevail. Add to this, that 
durin i; the commotions which followed the death of 
Nero L > contest for the purple turned the eyes of the 
worlu : m every other object. All persons of conse- 
quence interested themselves in the success of some 
of the contending parties ; and the legates in Britain, 
suspended in expectation of the issue of such mighty 
quarrels, remained unactive till it could be deter- 
mined for what master they were to conquer. 

On the side of the Roman government these seem 
to have been some of the causes which so long pro- 
tracted the fate of Britain. Others arose from the 
nature of the country itself, and from the manners 
of its inhabitants. The country was then extremely 
woody and full of morasses. There were originally 
no roads. The motion of armies was therefore diffi- 
cult, and communication in many cases impractica- 
ble. There were no cities, no towns, no places of 
cantonment for soldiers ; so that the Roman forces 
were obliged to come into the field late and to leave 
it early in the season. They had no means to awe 
the enemy, and to prevent their machinations dur- 
ing the winter. Every campaign they had nearly the 
same work to begin. When a civilized nation suf- 
fers some groat defeat, and loses some place critically 
situated, such is the mutual dependence of the sev- 
eral parts by commerce, and by the orders of a well- 
regulated community, that the whole is easily se- 



cured. A long-continued state of war is unnatural 
to such a nation. They abound with artisans, with 
traders, and a number of settled and unwarlike peo- 
ple, who are less disturbed in their ordinary course 
by submitting to almost any power than in a long op- 
position ; and as this character diffuses itself tlirough 
the whole nation, they find it impossible to carry on 
a war, when they are deprived of the usual resour- 
ces. But in a country like ancient Britain there are 
as many s^Miers as inhabitants. They unite and 
disperse -se. They require no pay nor formal 

subsisten. 1 the hardships of an irregular war 

are not vciy remote from their ordinary course of 
life. Victories are easily obtained over such a rude 
people, but they are rarely decisive ; and the final 
conquest becomes a work of time and patience. All 
that can be done is to facilitate communication by 
roads, and to secure the principal avenues and the 
most remarkable posts on the navigable rivers by 
forts and stations. To conquer the people, you must 
subdue the nature of the country. The Romans at 
length effected this; but until this was done, they 
never were able to make a perfect conquest. 

I shall now add something concerning the govern- 
ment the Romans settled here, and of those methods 
which they used to preserve the conquered people un- 
der an entire subjection. Those nations who had 
either passively permitted or had been instrumental 
in the conquest of their fellow-Britons were dignified 
with the title oi Uies, and thereby preserved their 
possessions, laws, and magistrates : they were subject 
to no kind of charge or tribute. But as their league 
was not equal, and that they were under the protec- 
tion of a superior power, they were entirely divest- 





ed of the right of war and peace ; and in many 
cases an appeal lay to Rome in consequence of their 
subordinate and dependent situation. This was the 
lightest species of subjection ; and it was generally 
no more than a step preparatory to a stricter govern- 

The condition of those towns and communities 
called munidpia, by their being more closely unit- 
ed to the greater state, seemed to partake a degree 
less of independence. They were adopted citizens of 
Rome; but whatever was det?acted from their an- 
cient liberty was compensated I a more or less com- 
plete posst 5sion of the privilege which constituted a 
Roaian city, according to the merits which had pro- 
cured their adoption. These cities were models of 
Rome in little; their courts and magistrates were 
the same ; and though they were at liberty to retain 
their old laws, and to make new at their pleasure, 
they commonly conformed to those of Rome. The 
munidpia wore not subject to tribute. 

When a whole people had resisted i,he Roman 
power with great obstinacy, had displayed a readi- 
ness to revolt upon every occasion, and had frequent- 
ly broken their faith, they were reduced into what 
the Romans called the form of a province : that is, 
they lost their laws, their liberties, their magistrates ; 
they forfeited the greatest part of their lands ; and 
they paid a heavy tribute for what they were permit- 
ted to retain. 

In tlieso provinces the supreme government was in 
the prator sent by the senate, who commanded the 
army, and in his own person exercised the judicial 
power. Where the sphere of liis government was 
large, he deputed his legates to that employment, who 



judged according to the standing laws of tho repub- 
lic, aided by those occasional declarations of law 
called the praetorial edicts. The care of the reve- 
nue was in the quaestor. He was appointed to that 
office in Rome ; but when he acted in judicial car 
pacity, it was always by commission from the praetor 
of the province.* Between these magistrates and 
all otliers who had any share in the provincial gov- 
ernment the Roman manners had established a kind 
of sacred relation, as inviolable as that of blood. f 
All the officers were taught t"> look up to the praetor 
as their father, and to regard each otlier as brethren : 
a firm and useful bond of concord in a virtuous ad- 
ministration ; a dangerous and oppressive combina- 
tion in a bad one. But, like all the Roman institu- 
tions, it operated strongly towards its principal pur- 
pose, the security of dominion, which is by nothing 
so much exposed as the factions and competitions 
of the officers, when the governing party itself gives 
the first example of disobedience. 

On the overthrow of the Commonwealth, a re- 
markable revolution ensued in the power and the 
subordination of tliese magistrates. For, as the 
prince came alone to possess all that was by a 
proper title either imperial or praetorial autliority, 
the ancient praeto.s dwindled into his legates, by 
which the splendor ana importance of that dignity 
were much diminished. The business of the quaes- 
tor at this time seems to have been transferred to 
the emperor's procurator. Tlie whole of the public 
revenue ijccame part of tho fisc, and was considered 
as the private estate of the prince. But the old office 

* Sigonii lie Antiquo Jure rrovinciarnm, Lib. 1 and 2. 
t Cic. in Verrem, I. 

if _' 

t jl 






li m 

under this new appellation rose in proportion as the 
praetorship had declmed. For the procurator seems 
to have drawn to himself the cognizance of all civil, 
while capital cases alone were reserved for the judg. 
ment of the legate.* And though his power was 
at first restrained within narrow bounds, and all his 
judgments were subject to a review and reversal by 
the praetor and the senate, he gradually grew into 
independence of both, and was at length by Claudius 
invested with a jurisdiction absolutely uncontrolla- 
ble. Two causes, I imagine, joined to produce this 
change : first, the sword was in the hands of the leg- 
ate ; the policy of the emperors, in order to balance 
this dangerous authority, thought too mucii weight 
could not be thrown into the scale of the procu- 
rator: secondly, as the government was now en- 
tirely despotical, a connection between the inferior 
officers of the empire and the senate f was found 
to shock the reason of that absolute mode of gov- 
ernment, which extends the sovereign power in all 
its fulness to every officer in his own district, and 
renders him accountable to his master alone for the 
abuse of it. 

The veteran soldiers were always thought entitled 
to a settlement in the country which had been sub- 
dued by their valor. The whole legion, with the 
tribunes, the centurions, and all the subordinate of- 
ficers, were seated on an allotted portion of the con- 
quered lauds, which were dist.ibuted among them 

• Duobns insnper inseiriendum tyrannis ; qnornm legatns in etm. 
gninem, procurator in bona sseviret. — Tacit. Annal. XII. 60. 

t Ne vim principatns resolveret cnncta ad scnatum vocando, earn 
conditionem esse imperandi, ut non aliter ratio constet, quam si uni 
reddatur. — Tacit Annal. I. 6. 




according to their rank. These colonics were dis- 
posed throughout the conquered country, so as to sus 
tain each other, to surround tlie possessions that were 
loft to the conquered, to mix with the municipia or 
free towns, and to o>crawe the allies. Rome ex- 
tended herself by her colonies into every part of her 
empire, and was everywhere present. I speak hero 
only of the military colonies, because no other, I im 
agine, were ever settled in Britain. 

There were few countries of any considerable ex- 
tent in which all these different modes of government 
and different shades and gradations of servitude did 
not exist together. There were allies, municipia, 
provinces, and colonies in this island, as elsewhere ; 
and those dissimilar parts, far from being discordant, 
united to make a firm and compact body, the motion 
of any member of which could only serve to confirm 
and establish the whole ; and when time was given 
to this structure to coalesce and settle, it 'vas found 
impossible to break any part of it from the Empire. 

By degrees the several parts blended and softened 
into one another. And as the remembrance of en- 
mity, on the one hand, wore away by time, so, on the 
other, the privileges of the Roman citizens at length 
became less valuable. When nothing throughout so 
vast an extent of the globe was of consideration but 
a single man, there was no reason to make any dis- 
tinction amongst his subjects. Claudius first gave 
the full rights of the city to all the Gauls. Under 
Antoninus Rome opened her gates still wider. All 
the subjects of the Empire were made partakers of 
the same common rights. The provincials flocked 
in ; even slaves were no sooner enfranchised than 
they were advanced to the highest posts; and the 

; f\ 

h ^.i\ 

VOL. Til. 







plan of comprehension, which had orerturned the 
republic, strengthened the monarchy. 

Before the partitions were thus broken down, in 
order to support the Empire, and to prevent commo- 
tions, thej liad a custom of sending spies into all the 
provinces, where, if they discovered any provincial 
laying himself out for popularity, they were sure of 
finding means, for they scrupled none, to repress him. 
It was not only the praetor, with his train of lictors 
and apparitors, the rods and the axes, and all the 
insolent parade of a conqueror's jurisdiction ; every 
private Roman seemed a kind of magistrate : they 
took cognizance of all their words and actions, and 
hourly reminded them of that jealous and stern au- 
thority, so vigilant to discover and so severe to pun- 
ish the slightest deviations from obedience. 

As they had framed the action de pecuniia repetun- 
dis against the avarice and capacity of the provin- 
cial governors, they made at length a law* which, 
one may say, was against tlieir virtues. For they 
prohibited them from receiving addresses of thanks 
on their administration, or any other public mark 
of acknowledgment, lest they should come to think 
that their merit or demerit consisted in the good 
or ill opinion of the people over whom they ruled. 
They dreaded either a relaxation of government, 
or a dangerous influence in the legate, from the ex- 
ertion of an humanity too popular. 

These are some of the civil and political methods 
by which the Romans held their dominion over con- 
quc' nations ; but even in peace they kept up a 
great military establishment. Tiiey looked upon the 
interior country to be sufficiently secured by the 

• T*cit. Annal. XV. 21. 22. 



colonies ; their forces were therefore generally quar- 
tered on the frontiers. There they had their «<a- 
tiva, or stations, which were strong intrenched camps, 
many of them fitted even for a winter residence. 
The communication between these camps, the colo- 
nies, and the municipal towns was formed by groat 
roads, which they callsd military ways. The two 
principal of these ran in almost straight lines, the 
whole length of England, from north to south. Two 
others intersected them from east to west. The re- 
mains show them to have been in their perfection 
noble works, in all respects wortliy the Roman mili- 
tary prudence and the majesty of the Empire. Tiie 
Anglo-Saxoi'« called them streets.* Of all the Ro- 
man works, tlioy respected and kept up these alone. 
They regardeu them with a sort of sacred reverence, 
granting them a peculiar protection and great im- 
munities. Those who travelled on them were privi- 
leged from arrests in all civil suits. 

As the general character of the Roman govern- 
ment "as hard and austere, it was particularly so 
in what regarded the revenue. This revenue was 
either fixed or occasional. The fixed consisted, first, 
of an annual tax on persons and lands, but in what 
proportion to the fortunes of the one or the value 
of the other I have not been able to ascertain. Next 
was the imposition called decuma, which consisted 
of a tenth, and often a greater portion of the com 
of the province, which was generally delivered in 
kind. Of all other products a fifth was paid. After 
this tenth had been exacted on the corn, they were 
obliged to sell another tenth, or a more considerable 

• The four roads they called Watling Street, Ikenild Street, Errnin 
Street, and the rosseway. 





) 1 I 

part, to the praetor, at a price estimated by himself. 
Even what remained was still siibject to be bouglit 
up in the same manner, and at the pleasure of the 
same magistrate, who, independent of these taxes 
and purchases, received for the use of his houseliold 
a large portion of the com of the province. The 
m valuable of the pasture grounds were also re- 
set > v/d to the public, and a considerable revenue was 
thence derived, which they called teriptura. The 
state made a monopoly of almost the whole prod- 
uce of the land, which paid several taxes, and was 
further enhanced by passing through several hands 
before it came to popular consumption. 

The third great branch of the Roman revenue was 
the portorium, which did not differ from those impo- 
sitions which ve now call customs and duties of ex- 
port and import. 

This was the ordinary revenue; besides which 
there were occasional impositions for shipping, for 
military stores and provisions, and for defraying the 
expense of the prsetor and his legates on the vari- 
ous circuits they made for the administration of the 
province. This last charge became frequently a 
means of great oppression, and several ways were 
from time to time attempted, but with little effect, 
to confine it within reasonable bounds.* Amongst 
the extraordinary impositions must be reckoned the 
obligation they laid on the provincials to labor at 
the public works, after the manner of what the 
French call the corvSe, and we term statute-labor. 

As the provinces, burdened by the ordinary charges, 
were often in no condition of levying these occasional 
taxes, they were obliged to borrow at interest. In- 

• Cod. Lib. Xn. Tit IxiL 




terest was then to communitioa at the some exorbi- 
tant rate as to individuals. No province was fi<50 
from a most onerous public debt ; and that debt was 
far from operating like tho same engagement con- 
tracted in modern states, hj which, as the creditor 
is thrown into tho power of tho debtor, they often 
add considerably to their strength, and to tho num- 
ber and attachment of their dependants. Tho prince 
in this latter case borrows from a subject or from 
a stranger. The one becomes more the subject, and 
the other less a stranger. But in the Roman prov- 
inces the subject borrowed from his master, and he 
thereby doubled his slavery. The overgrown favor- 
ites and wealthy nobility of Rome advanced money 
to the provincials ; and they were in a condition both 
to prescribe the terms of the loan and to enforce the 
payment. The provinces groaned at once under all 
the severity of public imposition and tlie rapacious- 
ness of private usury. They were overrun by pub- 
licans, farmers of the taxes, agents, confiscators, 
usurers, banic ?, those numerous and insatiable 
bodies which always uourish in a burdened and 
complicated revenue. In a word, the taxes in the 
Roman Empire were so heavy, and in many respects 
so injudiciously laid on, that they have been not im- 
properly considered as one cause of its decay and 
ruin. The Roman government, to the very last, 
carried something of the spirit of conquest in it; 
and this system of taxes seems rather calculated for 
the utter impoverishment of nations, in whom a long 
subjection had not worn away the remembrance of 
enmity, than for the support of a just common, 








After the period which we have just closed, no 
mention is made of the affairs of Britain until the 

*.D.m reign of Adrian. At that time was wrought 
the first remarkable cliango in the exterior 
policy of Rome. Although some of the emperors con- 
tented themselves with those limits which they found 
at their accession, none before this prince had actu- 
ally contracted the boimds of the Empire : for, be- 
ing more perfectly acquainted with all the countries 
that composed it than uuy of his predecessors, what 
was strong and what weak, and having formed to 
himself a plan wholly defensive, he purposely aban- 
doned several large tracts of territory, that he might 
render what remained more solid and compact. 

^, jjj This plan particularly affected Britain. 
All the conquests of Agricola to the north- 
ward of the Tyne were relinquished, and a strong 
rampart was built from the mouth of that river, on 
the east, to Solway Frith, on tlie Irish Sea, a length 
of about eighty miles. But in the reign of his succes- 
sor, Antoninus Pius, other reasonings prevailed, and 

A. D. iw f^^^^r measures were pursued. The legate 
who then commanded in Britain, conclud- 
ing that the Caledonians would construe the defensive 
policy of Adrian into fear, that they would naturally 
grow more numerous in a larger territory, and more 
haughty when they saw it abandoned to them, the 
frontier was again advanced to Agricola's second 
line, which extended between the Friths of Forth 
and Clyde, and the stations which had been estab- 






Ushed hj that j; wore connected vith a con* 

tinned wall 

From i.' . time those walls become the principal 
object in the British history. The Gulcdunians, or 
(as they are called) the Picts, made very frequent 
and sometimes successful attempts upon this bar- 
rier, taking advantage more particularly of every 
change in government, whilst the soldiery tlirough- 
out the Empire were more intent upon the choice of 
a master than the motions of an enemy. In this du- 
bious state of unquiet peace and unprosecuted war 
the province con linucd until Soverus came to the pur- 
ple, who, finding that Britain had grown in- 
to one of the most considerable provinces of 
the Empire, and was at the same time in a danger- 
ous situation, rcolved to visit that i ' \nd in person, 
and to provide for its security. He led a 
vast army into the wilds of Caledonia, and 
was the first of the Romans who penetrated to the 
most northern boundary of this island. The na- 
tives, defeated in some engagements, and wholly 
imable to resist so great and determined a power, 
were obliged to submit to such a peace as the em- 
peror thought proper to impose. Contenting himself 
with a submission, always cheaply won from a barba- 
rous people, and never long regarded, Severus made 
no sort of military establishment in that country. 
On the contrary, he abandoned the ad- 
vanced work wliich had been raised in the 
reign of Antoninus, and, limiting himself by the plan 
of Adrian, he either built a new wall near the for- 
mer, or he added to the work of that emperor such 
considerable improvements and repairs that it has 
since been called the Wall of Severus. 


A.D. KM. 

A. D. am. 

>" M 




' I 

Severns \rith great labor and charge terrified tho 
Caledonians ; but he did not subdue them. He neg- 
lected those easy and assured means of subjection 
wliich the nature of that part of Britain afiTordfl 
to a power master of the sea, by the bays, friths, 
and lakes with vrhich it is everywhere pierced, and 
in some places almost cut through. A few garri- 
sons at tho necks of land, and a fleet to connect 
them and to awe the coast, must at any time have 
been sufficient irrecoverably to subdue that part of 
Britain. This was a neglect in Agricola occasioned 
probably by a limited command ; and it was not rec- 
tified by boundless authority in Severus. The Cale- 
donians again resumed their arms, and renewed their 
ravages on the Roman frontier. Severus died before 
he could take any new measures ; and from his death 
there is an almost total silence concerning the af- 
fairs of Britain until the division of the Empire. 

Had the unwieldy mass of that overgrown do- 
minion been effectively divided, and divided into 
large portions, each forming a state, separate and 
absolutely independent, the scheme had been far 
more perfect. Though the Empire had perished, 
these states might have subsisted ; and they might 
have made a far better opposition to the inroads 
of the barbarians even than the whole united ; since 
each nation would have its own strength solely em- 
ployed in resisting its own particular enemios. For, 
notwithstanding the resources which might have been 
expected from the entireness of so great a body, it 
is clear from history that the Romans were never 
able to employ with effect and at tho same time 
above two armies, and that on the whole they were 
very unequal to tho defence of a frontier of many 
thousand miles in circuit. 

•f - I 1' 



But the scheme which was pursued, the scheme of 
joint emperors, holding by a common title, each gov- 
erning his proper territory, but not wholly without 
authority in the other portions, this formed a species 
of government of which it is hard to conceive any 
just idea. It was a government in continual fluctu- 
ation from one to many, and from many again to a 
single hand. Each state did not subsist long enough 
independent to fall into those orders and connected 
classes of men that are necessary to a regular com- 
monwealth ; nor had they time to grow into those 
virtuous partialities from which nations derive the 
first principle of their stability. 

The events which follow sufficiently illu trate 
these reflections, and will show the reason of intro- 
ducing them in this place, with regard to the Empire 
in general, and to Britain more particularly. 

In the division which Diocletian first made of the 
Roman territory, the western provinces, m which 
Britain was included, fell to Maximian. It was 
during his reign that Britain, by an extraordinary 
revolution, was for some time entirely separated from 
the body of the Empire. Carausius, a man of ob- 
scure birth, and a barbarian, (for now not only the 
army, but the senate, was filled with foreigners,) 
had obtained the government of Boulogne. He was 
also intrusted with the command of a fleet stationed 
in that part to oppose the Saxon pirates, who then 
began cruelly to infest the northwest parts of Gaul 
and the opposite shore of Britain. But Carausius 
made use of the power with wliich he had been in- 
trusted, not so much to suppress the pirates as to 
aggrandize himself. He even permitted their dep- 
redations, that he might intercept them on their 



return, and enrich himself with the retaken plun- 
der. By such methods he acquired immense wealth, 
which he distributed with so politic a bounty among 
the seamen of his fleet and the legions in Britain that 
by degrees he disposed both the one and the other to 
a revolt in his favor. 

As there ^ ere then no settled principles either 
of successio i or election in the Empire, and all de- 
pended on the uncertain faith of the army, Carausius 
made his attempt, perhaps, with the less guilt, and 
found the less difficulty in prevailing upon the pro- 
vincial Britons to submit to a sovereignty which 
seemed to reflect a sort of dignity on themselves. 
In this island he established the seat of his new do- 
minion ; but he kept up and augmented his fleet, by 
which he preserved his communication with his old 
government, and commanded the intermediate seas. 
He entered into a close alliance with the 
Saxons and Frisians, by which he at once 
preserved his own island from their depredations 
and rendered his maritime power irresistible. He 
humbled the Picts by several defeats ; he repaired 
the frontier wall, and supplied it with good garrisons. 
He made several roads equal to the works of the 
greatest emperors. He cut canals, with vast labor 
and expense, through all the low eastern parts of 
Britain, at the same time draining tliose fenny 
countries, and promoting communication and com- 
merce. On these canals he built several cities. 
Whilst he thus labored to promote the in- 
ternal strength and happiness of his king- 
dom, he contended with so much success against his 
former masters that they were at length obliged not 
only to relinquish their right to his acquisition, but 


A.D. 200. 



to admit him to a participation of the imperial titles. 
He reigned after this for seven years prosperously and 
with great glory, because he wisely set bounds to his 
ambition, and contented himself with the possession 
of a great country, detached from the vest of the 
world, and therefore easily defended. Had he lived 
long enough, and pursued this plan with consistency, 
Britain, in all probability, might then have become, 
and might have afterwards been, an independent and 
powerful kingdom, instructed in the Roman arts, 
and freed from their dominion. But the same dis- 
temper of the state which had raised Carausius to 
power did not sufifer him long to enjoy it. The 
Roman soldiery at that tii^ ^ was wholly destitute of 
military principle. That religious regard to their 
oath, the great bond of ancient discipline, had been 
long worn out ; and tlie want of it was not supplied 
by that punctilio of honor and loyalty which is the 
support of modern armies. Carausius was ^ „ j,,^ 
assassinated, and succeeded in his kingdom 
by Allectus, the captain of his guards. But the mur- 
derer, who did not possess abilities to support the 
power he had acquired by his crimes, was in a short 
time defeated, and in his turn put to death, by Con- 
stantius Chlorus. In about three years from the death 
of Carausius, Britain, after a short experiment of in- 
dependency, was again united to the body of the Em- 

Constantius, after he came to the purple, ^ „ ,^ 
chose this island for his residence. Many 
authors affirm that his wife Helena was a Briton. It 
is more certain that his son Constantino t' e Great was 
born here, and enabled to succeed his father princi- 
pally by the helps which he derived from Britain. 







i n 

Under the reign of this great prince there 
was an almost total revolution in the internal 
policy of the Empire. This was the third remarkable 
change in the Roman gorernmeut since the dissolu- 
tion of the Commonwealth. The first was that by 
which Antoninus had taken away the distinctions of 
t7ie muntcipium, province, and colony, communicating 
tc every part of the Empire those privileges which 
had formerly distinguished a citizen of Rome. Thus 
the whole government was cast into a more uniform 
and simple frame, and every mark of conquest was 
finally effaced. Tue second alteration was the divis- 
ion of the Empire by Diocletian. The third was the 
change made in the great offices of the state, and the 
revolution in religion, under Constantino. 

The prcefecti prcetorio, who, like the commanders 
of the janizaries of the P^rte, by their ambition and 
turbulence had kept the government in continual fer- 
ment, were reduced by the happiest art imaginable. 
Their number, only two originally, was increased to 
four, by which their power was balanced and broken. 
Their authority was not lessened, but its nature was 
totally changed : for it became from that time a dig- 
nity and office merely civil. The whole Empire was 
divided into four departments under these four offi- 
cers. The subordinate districts were governed by 
their vicarii; and Britain, accordingly, was under ? 
vicar, subject to the prcefectu% prcetorio of Gaul. The 
military was divided nearly in the same manner ; 
and it was placed under officers also of a new crea- 
tion, tlie magistri militioe. Immediately under these 
were the duces, and under those the comitea, dukes 
and counts, titles unknown in the time of the Repub- 
lic or in the higher Empire ; but afterwards they ex- 



tended beyond the Roman territory, and having been 
conferred by the Northern nations upon their leaders, 
they subsist to this day, and contribute to the dignity 
of the modern courts of Europe. 

But Constantino made a much greater change with 
regard to religion by the establishment of Christiani- 
ty. At what time the Gospel was first preached iu 
this island I believe it impossible to ascertain, as it 
camo in gradually, and without, or rather contrary 
to, public authority. It was most probably first in- 
troduced among the legionai-y soldiers ; for we find 
St. Alban, the first British martyr, to have been of 
that body. As it was introduced privately, so its 
growth was for a long time insensible ; but it shot 
up at length with great vigor, and spread itself wide- 
ly, at first under the favor of Constantius and the 
protection of Helena, and at length under the estab- 
lishment of Constantino. From this time it is to be 
considered ac the ruling religion ; though heathenism 
subsisted long after, and at last expired impercepti- 
bly, and with as little noise as Christianity had been 
at first introduced. 

In this state, with regard to the civil, military, and 
religious establishment, Britain remained without any 
change, and at intervals in a tolerable state of repose, 
until the reign of Valentinian. Then it was attacked 
all at once with incredible fury and success, and as it 
were in concert, by a number of barbarous .^ 

nations. The principal of these were the 
Scots, a people of ancient settlement in Ireland, and 
who had thence been transpla'^+ed into the northern 
part of Britain, which afterwards derived its name 
from that colony. The Scots of both nations united 
with the Picts to fall upon the Roman province. To 







' i 


A.B. a<8. 

these were added the piratical Saxons, who issued 
from the mouths of the Rhine, For some years they 
met but slight resistance, and made a most miserable 
havoc, until the famous Count Theodosius was sent to 
the relief of Britain, — who, by an admirable conduct 
in war, and as vigorous application to the cure of do- 
mestic disorders, for a time freed the country from its 
enemies and oppressors, and having driven tbo Picts 
and Scots into the barren extremity of the island, he 
shut and barred them in with a new wall, advanced 
as far as the remotest of the former, and, what had 
hitherto been imprudently neglected, he erected the 
intermediate space into a Eoman province, 
and a regular government, under the name 
of Yalentia. But this was only a momentary relief. 
The Empire was perishing by the vices of its consti- 

Each province was then possessed by the inconsid- 
erate ambition of appointing a head to the whole ; al- 
though, when the end was obtained, the victorious 
province always returned to its ancient insignificance, 
and was lost in the common slavery. A great army 
of Britons followed the fortune of Maximus, whom 
they had raised to the imperial titles, into Gaul. 
They were there defeated ; and from their 
defeat, as it is said, arose a new people. 
Tliey are supposed to have settled in Armorica, 
which was then, like many other parts of the sick- 
ly Empire, become a mere desert; and that coun- 
try, from this accident, has been since called Bre- 

The Roman province thus weakened afforded op- 
portunity and encouragement to the barbarians again 
to invade and ravage it. Stilicho, indeed, during the 

A.D. 888. 




minority of Honorius, obtained some advantages over 
tliem, which procured a short intermission of their 
hostilities. But as the Empire on tlio continent was 
now attacked on all sides, and staggered under the 
innumerable shocks which it received, that minister 
ventured to recall the Roman forces from Britain, in 
order to sustain those parts which he judged of more 
importance ai/" in greater danger. 

On the intelligence of this desertion, their ^^ ^ 
barbarous euemies break in upon the Brit- 
ons, and are no longer resisted. Their ancient protec- 
tion withdrawn, the people became stupefied with ter- 
ror and despair. They petition the emperor for succor 
in the most moving terms. The emperor, protest- 
ing his weakness, commits them to their own deience, 
absolves them from their allegiance, and confers on 
them a freedom which they have no longer the sense 
to value nor the viiiue to defend. The princes 
whom after this desertion they raised and deposed 
with a stupid inconstancy were styled Emperors. So 
hard it is to change idea?, to which men have been 
long accustomed, especially in government, that the 
Britons had no notion of a sovereign who was not to 
be emperor, nor of an emperor who was not to be 
master of the Western world. This single idea i u- 
ined Britain. Constantino, a native of this island, 
one of those shadows of imperial majesty, no sooner 
found himself established at home than, fatally for 
himself and his country, he turned his eyes towards 
the continent. Thither he carried the flower of the 
British youth, — all who were any ways eminent for 
birth, for courage, for their skill in the military or 
mechanic arts ; but his success was not equal to his 
hopes or his forces. The remains of his routed army 



joined their countrymen in Armorica, and a baffled 
attempt upon the Empire a second time recruited 
Oaul and exhausted Britain. 

The Scots and Picts, attentive to every advantage, 
rushed with redoubled violence into this vacuity. 
Tlie Britons, who could find no protection but in 
slavery, again implore the assistance of tb'^ir former 
masters. At that time Aetius commanded the impe- 
rial forces in Gaul, and with the virtue and military 
skill of the ancient Romans 8u~"'"'*«d the Empire, tot- 
tering with age and weakness. Though he was then 
hard pressed by the vast armies of Attila, which like 
a deluge had overspread Gaul, he afforded them a 
small and temporary succor. This detachment of Ro- 
mans repelled the Scots ; they repaired the walls ; 
and animating the Britons by their example and in- 
structions to maintain their freedom, they departed. 
But the Scots easily perceived and took advantage of 
their departure. Wliilst they ravaged the country, 
the Britons renewed their supplications to Aetius. 
They once more obtained a reinforcement, which 
again reestablished their affairs. They were, howev- 
er, given to understand that this was to be their last 
relief. The Roman auxiliaries were recalled, and the 
Britons abandoned to their own fortune forever. 

When the Romans deserted this island, 
they left a country, with regard to the arts 
of war or government, in a manner barbarous, but 
destitute of that spirit or those advantages with which 
sometimes a state of barbarism is attended. They 
carried out of each province its proper and natural 
strength, and supplied it by that of some other, which 
had no connection with the country. The troops raised 
in Britain often served in Egypt; and those which 

A.b. «32. 



were employed for the protection of this island were 
sometimes from Batavia or Germany, sometimes from 
provinces far to the east. Whenever the strangers 
were withdrawn, as they were very easily, the prov- 
ince was left in the hands of men wholly unprac- 
tised in war. After a peaceable possession of more 
than three hundred years, the Britons derived but 
very few benefits from their subjection to the con- 
querors and civilizers of mankind. Neither does 
it appear that the Roman people were at any time 
extremely numerous in this island, or had spread 
themselves, their manners, or their language as ex- 
tensively in Britain as they had done in the other 
parts of their Empire. The Welsh and the Anglo- 
Saxon languages retain much less of Latin than the 
French, the Spanish, or the Italian. The Romans 
subdued Britain at a later period, at a time when Ita- 
ly herself was not sufficiently populous to supply so 
remote a province : she was rather supplied from her 
provinces. The military colonies, though in some 
respects they were admirably fitted for their pur- 
poses, had, however, one essential defect : the lands 
granted to the soldiers did not pass to their posterity ; 
so that the Roman people must have multiplied poor- 
ly in this island, when their increase principally de- 
pended on a succession of superannuated soldiers. 
From this defect the colonies we'-e continually falling 
to decay. They had also in mar.y respects degenerat- 
ed from their primitive institution.* We must add, 

* Neqae conjagiis gnscipiendu neque alendig liberis saeti, orbas 
line posteris domos relijqaebant. Non enim, ut olim, nniversa le- 
giones dedncebantur cum tribanis et centorionibus et suis cajusqua 
ordinis militibus, nt consensn et caritate rempablicam efficerent, sed 
ignoti inter se, diversis manipolis, sine rectorc, sine affectibai mntois, 

VOL. TII. 15 





that m the decline of the Empire a great part of the 
troops in Britain were barbarians, Batavians or Oer> 
mans. Thus, at the close of this period, this unha^ 
P7 country, desolated of its inhabitants, abandoned by 
its masters, stripped of its artisans, and deprived of all 
its spirit, was in a condition the most wretched and 

qoMi ex alio ganen morttUam npenta in nnam coUeed, nnmenu 
magit qaam oolonia — Tacit AnnaL ZIV. 17. 


BOOK n. 



AFTER having been so long subject to a ^^^» 
foreign dominion, there was among the 
Britons no royal family, no respected order in the 
state, none of those titles to government, confirmed 
by opinion and long use, more eflScacious than the 
wisest schemes for the settlement of the nation. 
Mere personal merit was then the only pretence to 
power. But this circumstance only added to the 
misfortunes of a people who had no orderly method 
of election, and little experience of merit in any of 
the candidates. During this anarchy, whilst they 
Buffered the most dreadful calamities from the f\iry 
of barbarous nations which invaded them, they fell 
into that Jisregard of religion, and those loose, dis- 
orderly manners, which are sometimes the conse- 
quence of desperate and hardened wretchedness, as 
well as the common distempers of ease and prosper- 

At length, after frequent elections and deposings, 
rather wearied out by their own inconstancy than 
fixed by the merit of their choice, they suffered Vor- 
tigern to reign over them. This leader had made 
some figure in the conduct of their wars and factions. 
But he was no sooner settled on the throne than he 




.'f i 


fhowed h. aself raC, r like a prince born of an ex- 
hausted ;fock of r< ; ilty m tlu' decline of empire than 
one of those hold and active spirits whose manly tal- 
ents obtnin them the first place in their country, and 
stamp upon it that character of vigor essential to the 
prosperity of a new commonwealth. However, the 
mere settlement, in spite of the ill administration of 
irovemniont, procured the Britons some internal re- 
pose, and some temporary advantages over their en- 
emies, the Picts. But having been long habituated 
to defeats, neither relying on their king nor on them- 
selves, and fatigued with the obstinate attacks of 
an enemy whom they sometimes checked, but could 
never remove, in one of their national assemblies it 
was resolved to call in the mercenary aid of the Sax- 
ons, a powerful nation of Germany, which had been 
long by their piratical incursions terrible not only to 
them, but to all the adjacent countries. This reso- 
lution has been generally condemned. It has been 
said, that they seem to have through mere cowardice 
distrusted a strength not yet worn down, and a for- 
tune sufficiently prosperous. But as it was taken by 
general counsel and consent, we must believe that 
the necessity of such a step was felt, though the 
event was dubious. The event, indeed, might be 
dubious: in a state radically w ak, every measure 
vigorous *Miough for its protectiuu must endanger 
its existeii 

There is an imquestioned tradition among the 
Northern nations of Europe, importing that all that 
part of the v orld had suffered a great and general 
revolution by a migration from Asiatic Turtary of a 
people whom they call Asers. '''hese •' rywi "re ex- 
pelled or subdued the ancient hi. abitants of i e Cel- 



tic and Ciinbric orifr '! il. '^ leader f tins Asiatic 
annr was called Od, or ^ liii : fi thoir goiioral 
afterwards tin r tutelar deity. The i ^ of this great 
cliaiisfe is lost in the hiiperfcction of i ditionary his- 
tory, and the attempts to supply it h\ fable. It is, 
howc T, c Ttain that tlio Saxon nation believed tliem- 
Bt'lvcs the . cscondants of those conquerors : and the^ 
had as good a title to tiiat descent as any otlier ot 
the North. -rn tribes; for they used the saii'o langunu'e 
'.vhich thou was md is still spoken, with Mnall 
tion of the dialects, in n'l the countri. which ext»>i, ^ 
from tlio })ola,r circle t . the Danube. T! , j- nple 
most jHobably derived their name, as wel as thoir 
origin, from the -^acffi, a i ion of the Asii'-tie A' 'hia. 
At the time of v ioh w .vrite they had f^flate-i lom- 
selvcs in the Cimbrii, Liiercones' ■;, or Jn .and, i 
the countries of Holstein and Pies ick, ■! then a 
extended along the Elbe and W- scr to ; coast of 
the Gfi man Ocrui, as fa- as th moi is di< "' aie. 
Ill that ract they lived in a sort of lo ■ ailitary com- 
monw. 1th of the ordinary Gc n mo'i.jl. under sct- 
eral leaders, the mopt erainei _ oi ''hoE wn- Hengist, 
dcsceudcu from Odin, the gre ' C( 
atic colonies. It was to thi cl' 
Applied themselves. They inviti 
« .imple pay fi his troops, a 
tommon plunde . and the Isle 
thmc t. 

The army vhic ; camt; > er undur H igisi did not 
c:^ct^cd fifteen hundred men. The opiuiu;i which the 
Briton- had entertained of the Saxo- prowess was 
well founde 1 ; for they had the principal share in a 
dec''^ive victory which was tUtained over the Picts 
soon afte their arrival, a vif' _ vhich I'orcver freed 

iiiuctor < ti ' Asi- 

f t' it the Britons 

hi promise 

i\ of tlieir 

!et for a set- 







the Britons from all terror of the Picts and Scots, but 
in the same moment exposed them to an enemy no 
less dangeroiis. 

Hengist and his Saxons, who had obtained by the 
free vote of the Britons that introduction into this 
island they had so long in vain attempted by arms, 
saw that by being necessary they were superior to 
their allies. They discovered the character of the 
king ; they were eye-witnesses of the internal weak- 
ness and distraction of tl e kingdom. This state of 
Britain was represented with so much eflTect to the 
Saxons in Germany, that another and much greater 
embarkation followed the first; new bodies daily 
crowded in. As soon as the Saxons began to be 
sensible of their strength, they found it their inter- 
est to be discontented ; they complained of breaches 
of a contract, which they construed according to their 
own designs ; and then fell rudely upon their unpre- 
pared and feeble allies, who, as they had not been 
able to resist the Picts and Scots, were still less in 
a condition to oppose that force by which they had 
been protected against those enemies, when turned 
unexpectedly upon themselves. Hengist, with very 
little opposition, subdued the province of Kent, and 
there laid the foundation of the first Saxon kingdom. 
Every battle the Britons fought only prepared them 
for a new defeat, by weakening their strength and 
displaying the inferiority of their courage. Vorti- 
gern, instead of a steady and regular resistance, 
opposed a mixture of timid war and unable nego- 
tiation. In one of their meetings, wherein the busi- 
ness, according to the German mode, was carried on 
amidst feasting and riot, Vortigem was struck with 
the beauty of a Saxon virgin, a kinswoman of Hen- 



gist, aud entirely under his influence. Having mar- 
ried her, he delivered himself over to her counsels. 

His people, harassed by their enemies, be- ^ ^ ^ 
trayed by their prince, and indignant at the 
feeble tyranny that oppressed them, deposed him, and 
set his son Vortimer in his place. But the change 
of the king proved no remedy foi che exhausted state 
of the nation and the constitutional infirmity of the 
government. For even if the Britons could have 
supported themselves against the superior abUities 
and efforts of Hengist, it might have added to their 
honor, but would have contributed little to their 
safety. The news of his success had roused all 
Saxony. Five great bodies of that adventurous 
pcopb, under different and independent command- 
ers, very nearly at the same time broke in upon as 
many different parts of the island. They came no 
longer as pirates, but as invaders. Whilst the Brit- 
ons contended with one body of their fierce enemies, 
another gamed ground, and filled with slaughter and 
desolation the whole country from sea to sea. A 
devouring war, a dreadful famine, a plague, the most 
wasteful of any recorded in our history, united to 
consummate the ruin of Britain. The ecclesiastical 
writers of that age, confounded at the view of those 
complicated calamities, saw nothing but the arm of 
God stretched out for the punishment of a sinful 
and disobedient nation. And truly, when we set 
before us in one point of view the condition of al- 
most all the parts which had lately composed the 
Western Empire, — of Britain, of Gaul, of Italy, of 
Spain, of Africa, — at once overwhelmed by a re- 
sistless inundation of most cruel barbarians, whose 
inhuman method of war made but a small part of 





1 X 



the miseries with which these nations were afflicted, 
we are almost driven out of the circle of political 
inquiry: we are in a manner compelled to acknowl- 
edge the hand of God in those immense revolutions 
by which at certain periods He so signally asserts 
His supreme dominion, and brings about that great 
system of change which is perhaps as necessary to 
the moral as it is found to be in the natural world. 

But whatever was the condition of the other parts 
of Europe, it is generally agreed that the state of 
Britain was the worst of all. Some writers have 
asserted, that, except those who took refuge in the 
mountains of Wales and in Cornwall, or fled into 
Am orica, the British race was in a manner de- 
stroyed. What is extraordinary, we find England 
in a very tolerable state of population in less than 
two centuries after the first invasion of the Saxons ; 
and it is hard to imagine either the transplantation 
or the increase of that single people to have been 
in so short a time sufficient for the settlement of 
so great an extent of country. Others speak of 
the Britons, not as extirpated, but as reduced to a 
state of slavery ; and here these writers fix the origin 
of personal and predial servitude in England. 

I shall lay fairly before the reader all I have 
been able to discover concerning the existence or 
condition of this unhappy people. That they were 
mucli moie broken and reduced than any other na- 
tion which had fallen imder the German power I 
think may be inferred from two considerations. 
First, that in all other parts of Europe the ancient 
language subsisted after the conquest, and at lengtli 
incorporated with that of the conquerors; whereas 
in England the Saxon language received little or 

. r 




no tincture from the Welsh; and it seems, even 
among the lowest people, to have continued a dia- 
lect of pure Teutonic to the time in which it waa 
itself blended with the Norman. Secondly, that on 
the continent the Christian religion, after the North- 
ern irruptions, not only remained, but flourished. 
It was very early and universally adopted by the 
ruling people. In England it was so entirely ex- 
tinguished, that, when Augustin undertook his mis- 
sion, it does not appear that among all the Saxons 
there was a single person professing Christianity. 

The sudden extinction of the ancient religion 
and language appears sufficient to show that Britain 
must have suffered more than any of the neighbor- 
ing nations on the continent. But it must not be 
concealed that there are likewise proofs that the 
British race, though much diminished, was not whol- 
ly extirpated, and that those who remained were not, 
merely as Britons, reduced to servitude. For they 
are mentioned as existing in some of the 
earlier Saxon laws. In these laws they are 
allowed a compensation on the footing of the moaner 
kind of English ; and they are even permitted, as well 
as the English, to emerge out of that low rank into 
a more liberal condition. This is degradation, but 
not slavery.* The affairs of that whole period are, 
however, covered with an bscurity not to be dissi- 
pated. The Britons had little leisure or ability to 
write a just account of a war by whicli they were 
ruined ; and the Anglo-Saxons who succeeded them, 
attentive only to arms, were, until their conversion, 
ignorant of the use of letters. 

It is on this darkened theatre that some old writers 

• Leges In«6, 32, De Cambrico Homiue Agrum poBsidento. — Id. 54. 

1. s. MO. 

• I- 





have introduced those characters and actions which 
have afforded such ample matter to poets and so 
much perplexity to historians. This is the fabulous 
and heroic age of our nation. After the natural and 
just representutions of the Roman scene, the stage 
is again crowded with enchanters, giants, and all the 
extravagant images of the wildest and most remote 
antiquity. No personage makes so conspicuous a fig- 
ure in these stories as King Arthur : a prince wheth- 
er of British or Roman origin, whether born on this 
island or in Amorica, is uncertain; but it appears 
that he opposed the Saxons with remarkable virtue 
and no small degree of success, which has rendered 
him and his exploits so large an argument of ro- 
mance that both are almost disclaimed by history. 
Light scarce begins to dawn until the introduction of 
Christianity, which, bringing with it the use of let- 
ters and the arts of civil life, affords at once a juster 
account of things and facts that are more worthy of 
relation : nor is there, indeed, any revolution so re- 
markable in the English story. 

The bishops of Rome had for some time meditated 
the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. Pope Gregory, 
who is surnamed the Great, affected that pious design 
with an uncommon zeal ; and he at length found a 
circumstance highly favorable to it in the marriage of 
a daughter of Charibert, a king of the Pranks, to the 
reigning monarch of Kent. This opportunity induced 
Pope Gregory to commission Augustin, a monk of 
Rheims, and a man of distinguished piety, to under- 
take this arduous enterprise. 

It was in the year of Christ 600, and 150 
years after the coming of the first Saxon 
colonies into England, that Ethelbert, king of Kent, 

A. D. too. 




receiyed intelligence of the arrival in his dominions 
of a number of men in a foreign garb, practising sev- 
eral strange and unusual ceremonies, who desired to 
be conducted to the king's presence, declaring that 
they had things to communicate to him and to his 
people of the utmost importance to their eternal wel- 
fare. This was Augustin, with forty of the associates 
of his mission, who now landed in the Isle of Thanet, 
the same place by which the Saxons had before en- 
tered, when they extirpated Christianity. 

The king heard them in the open air, in order to 
defeat,* upon a principle of Druidical superstition, the 
effects of their enchantments. Augustin spoke by a 
Prankish interpreter. The Franks and Saxons wore 
of the same origin, and used at that time the same 
language. He was favorably received ; and a place 
in the city of Canterbury, the capital of Kent, was 
allotted for the residence of hin: ond his companions. 
They entered Canterbury in procession, preceded by 
two persons who bore a silver cross and the figure of 
Christ painted on a board, singing, as they went, lit- 
anies to avert the wrath of God from that city and 

The king was among their first converts. The 
principal of his nobUity, as usual, followed that ex- 
ample, moved, as it is related, by many signal mira- 
cles, but undoubtedly by the extraordinary zeal of 
the missionaries, and "'.a pious austerity of their 
lives. The new religion, by the protection of so re- 
spected a prince, who held under his dominion or 
influence all the coimtries to the southward of the 
Humber, spread itself with great rapidity. Pagan- 
ism, after a faint resistance, everywhere gave way. 

* " Veteri usns augurio," says Henry of Huntingdon, p. .321. 







) i 

And, indeed, the chief difSculties which Christianity 
had to encounter did not arise so much from the 
struggles of opposite religious prejudices as from the 
gross and licentious manners of a barbarous people. 
One of the Saxon princes expelled the Christians 
from his territory because the priest refused to give 
liim some of that white bread which he saw distrib- 
uted to his congregation. 

It is probable tliat the order of Druids either did 
not at all subsist amongst the Anglo-Saxons, or that 
at this time it had declined not a little from its an- 
cient authority and reputation ; else it is not easy to 
conceive how they admitted so readily a new system, 
which at one stroke cut off from their character its 
whole importance. We even find some chiefs of the 
Pagan priesthood amongst the foremost in submit- 
ting to the new doctrine. On the first preaching of 
the Gospel in Northumberland, the heathen pontiff 
of that territory immediately mounted a horse, which 
to those of his order was imlawful, and, breaking into 
the sacred inclosure, hewed to pieces the idol he had 
so long served.* 

If the order of the Druids did not subsist amongst 
the Saxons, yet the chief objects of their religion ap- 
pear to have been derived from that fountain. They, 
indeed, worshipped several idols under various forms 
of men and beasts ; and those gods to whom tbey 
dedicated the days of the week bore in their attri- 
butes, and ill the particular days that were consecrat- 
ed to them, though not in their names, a near resem- 
blance to the divinities of ancient Rome. But still 
the great and capital objects of their worship were 
taken from Druidism, — trees, stones, the elements, 

* Bede, Hist. Eccl. Lib. IL c. 13. 



and the heavenly bodies • These were their prin- 
cipal devotions, laid the strongest hold upon their 
minds, and resisted the progress of the Christian re- 
ligion with the greatest obstinacy: for we find these 
superstitions forbidden amongst the latest Saxon laws. 
A worship which stands in need of the memorial of 
images or books to support it may perish when these 
are destroyed ; but when a superstition is established 
upon those great objects of Nature which continually 
solicit the senses, it is extremely difficult to turn the 
mind from things that in themselves are striking, and 
that are always present. Amongst the objects of this 
class must be reckoned the goddess Eostre, wlio, from 
the etymology of the name, as well as from the sea- 
son sacred to her, was probably that beautiful planet 
which the Greeks and Romans worshipped under the 
names of Lucifer and Venus. It is from this goddess 
that in England the paschal festival has been called 
Easter.t To these they joined the reverence of vari- 
ous subordinate genii, or demons, fairies, and goblins, 
— fantastical ideas, which, in a state of uninstructed 
Nature, grow spontaneously out of the wild fancies 
or fears of men. Thus, they worshipped a sort of 
goddess, whom they called Mara, formed from those 
frightful appearances that oppress men in their sleep; 
and the name is still retained among us.J 

As to the manners of the Anglo-Saxons, they were 
such as might be expected in a rude people, — fierce, 
and of a gross simplicity. Their clothes were short. 

. Deo. gentiles, ct solem vel lunam, ignem vel fluvium, torrentem 
Tel gaxa. vel aUcujus generis arborum Ugna.-L. Cnut. ^-^^V^ 
stitiosus iUe conventus. qui Frithgear dicitur, circa lap.dem, arbo 
tern, fontem. — Leg. Presb. Northumb. 

t Spelman'8 Glossary, Tit. eod. t The mgh^mare. 







As all barbarians are much taken with exterior form, 
and the advantages and distinctions which are con- 
ferred by Nature, the Saxons set an high value on 
comeliness of person, and studied much to improve 
it. It is remarkable that a law of King Ina orders 
the care and education of foundlings to be regulated 
by their beauty.* They cherished their hair to a 
great length, and were extremely proud and jealous 
of this natural ornament. Some of their great men 
were distinguished by an appellative taken from tho 
length of their hair.f To pull the hair was punisha- 
ble ; t and forcibly to cut or injure it was considered 
in the same criminal light with cutting off the nose 
or thrustmg out the eyes. In the same design of 
barbarous ornament, their faces were generally paint- 
ed and scarred. They were so fond of chains and 
bracelets that they have given a surname to some of 
their kings from their generosity in bestowing such 
marks of favor.§ 

Few things discover the itate of the arts amongst 
people more certainly than the presents that are made 
to them by foreigners. The Pope, on his first missi ; 
into Northumberland, sent to the queen of that couj 
try fiome stufls with ornaments of gold, an ivory comb 
inlaid with the same metal, and a silver mirror. A 
queen's want of such female ornaments and utensila 
shows that the arts were at this time little cultivated 
amongst the Saxons. These are the sort of presents 
commonly sent to a barbarous people. 

• L. Ixm, 96. 

t Oslacnt .... promis«4 ctMarie hero*. — Chron. Saxon. 1S3. 
t L. ^Ifiped. 81. L. Cnut. apnd Brompt. 27. 
S Eadgarus nobiiibui torqaiam largitor. — Chron. tUx . IS3 
Bed. Hin. Ecd. Lib. IV. c. 29, 



Thus ignorant in sciences and arts, and unprac- 
tised in trade or manufacture, military exercises, 
war, and the preparation for war, was their em- 
ploymeut, hunting their pleasure. Tliey dwelt in 
cottages of wicker-work plastered with clay and 
thatched with rushes, where they sat with theur 
families, their officers and domestics, round a fire 
made in the middle of the house. In this manner 
their greatest pruices lived amidst the ruins of Roman 
magnificence. But the introduction of Christiauity, 
which, under whatever form, always confers such 
mestimable benefits on mankind, soon made a sen- 
sible change in these rude and fierce manners. 

It is by no means impossible, that, for an end so 
worthy. Providence on some occasions might directly 
have interposed. The books which contain the histo- 
ry of this time and change are little else than a nar- 
rative of miracles, — frequently, however, with such 
apparent marks of weakness or design that they af- 
ford little encouragement to insist on them. They 
were then received with a blind credulity : they huve 
been since rejected with as undistiuguishuig a disre- 
gard. But as it is not in my design nor inclination, 
nor indeed in my power, either to establish or refute 
these stories, it is sufficient to observe, that the reality 
or ophiion of such miracles was the principal cause of 
the early acceptance and rapid progress of Cliristian- 
ity in this island. Other causes midoubtedly con- 
curred ; and it will be more to our purpose to con- 
sider some of the human and politic ways by which 
religion was advanced in this nation, and those more 
particularly by which the monastic institution, then 
interwoven with Christianity, and making an equal 
progress with it, attained to so high a pitch of prop- 




erty and power, so as, in a time extremely short, to 
form a kind of order, and that not the least consider* 
able, in the state. 


'Ik, I 


The marriage of Ethelbert to a Christian princess 
was, we bare seen, a means of introducing Christian- 
ity into bis dominions. The same influence con- 
tributed to extend it in the other kingdoms of the 
Heptarchy, the sovereigns of which were generally 
converted by their wives. Among the ancient nar 
tious of Germany, the female sex was possessed not 
only of its natural and common ascendant, but it 
was believed peculiarly sacred,* and favored with 
more frequent revelations of the Divine will ; women 
were therefore heard with an uncommon attention 
in all deliberations, and particularly in those that 
regarded religion. The Pagan superstition of the 
North furnished, in this instance, a principle which 
contributed to its own destruction. 

In the change of religion, care was taken to ren- 
der the transition from falsehood to truth as little vi- 
olent as posbible. Though the first proselytes were 
kings, it does not appear that there was any perse- 
cution. It was a precept of Pope Gregory, under 
whose auspices thi& mission was conducted, that the 
heathen temples should not be destroyed, especially 

* Inessfl qainetiara sanctum aliqnid et proTidum pntant ; nee ant 
conailia earam aspemantur ant responsa neglignnt. — Tacit, de Mor. 
Gcr. c. 8. 



where they were well built, — but that, first remoT- 
ing the idols, they should be consecrated anew by 
holier rites and to better purposes,* in order that 
the prejudices of the people miglit not bo too rudely 
shocked I a declared profanation of what they had 
80 long held sacred, and that, everywhere beholding 
the same places to which they had formerly resorted 
for religious comfort, they might bo gradually rec- 
onciled to the new doctrines and ceremonies which 
were there introduced; and as the sacrifices used 
in the Pagan worship were always attended with 
feasting, and consequently were highly grateful to 
the multitude, the Pope ordered that oxen should 
as usual be slaughtered near the church, and the 
people indulged in their ancient festivity.! What- 
ever popular customs of heathenism were found to 
be absolutely not incompatible with Christianity were 
retained; and some of them were continued to a 
very late period. Doer were at a certain season 
brought into St. Paul's church in London, and laid 
on the altar; J and this custom subsisted imtil the 
Reformation. The names of some of the Church 
festivals were, with a similar design, taken from those 
of the heathen which had been celebrated at the 
same time of the year. Nothing could have been 
more prudent than these regulations: they were, 
indeed, formed from a perfect understanding of hu- 
man nature. 

Whilst the inferior people were thus insensibly led 
into a better order, the example and countenance 
of the great completed the work. For the Saxon 
kings and ruling men embraced religion with so 

• Bed. Hist. Eccl. Lib. I. c. 30. 
J Dugdalc's Ilistorj of St. Fool'*. 
VOL. VII. 16 

t Id. c. eod. 





I' I 



■ignal, and in their rank so unusnal a zeal, that in 
many instances they even sacrificed to its advance- 
ment the prime objects of their amiiition. Wulfhere, 
king of the West Saxons, bestowed the Isle of Wight 
on the king of Sussex, to persuade him to embrace 
Christianity.* This zeal operated in the same man- 
ner in favor of their instructors. The greatest kings 
and conquerors frequently resigned their crowns and 
shut themselves up in monasteries. When kings be- 
came monks, a high lustre was reflected upon the 
monastic state, uiid great credit accrued to the pow- 
er of their doctrine, which was able to produce such 
extraordinary effects upon persons over whom relig- 
ion has commonly the slightest inflti' h-;. 

The zeal of the missionaries was also much as- 
sistod by their superiority in the arts of civil life. 
At their first preaching in Sussex, that country was 
reduced to the greatest distress from a drought, 
which had continued for three years. The barba- 
rous inhabitants, destitute of any means to alleviate 
the famine, in an epidemic transport of despair fre- 
(juently united forty and fifty in a body, and, joining 
their hands, precipitated themselves from the cliffs, 
and were either drowned or dashed to pieces on the 
rocks. Though a maritime people, they knew not 
how to fish ; and this ignorance probably arose from 
a remnant of Druidical superstition, which had for- 
bidden the use of that sort of diet. In this calamity, 
Bisliop Wilfrid, their first preacher, collecting nets, 
at the head of his attendants, plunged into the sea ; 
and having opened this great resource of food, he 
reconciled the desperate people to life, and their 
minds to the spiritual care of those who had shown 

• Bed. Uist. Eccl. Lib. IV. c. 13. 



themselves so attentive to their teiufjonil pnsorva- 

The same regard to the welfaru of tho jM.'ople 
appeared i i all their aci.'iis. Tbo Ciiristian kiiig^ 
sometimes made donuiions to tlio 'h ich of la- ds 
conquered from their heathen cnomios. Tiio clci jjj 
immediately baptized and niauuij.tu.'d thoir now vas- 
sals. Ihus they endeared to all sort.s ■»'. men d<'<> 
trines and teachers which could mitij^ate the rigorous 
law of conquest ; and they rejoiced to see religion and 
liberty advancing with aa >qual proKn-ss. Nor were 
the monks in this time in anything more worthy of 
praise than in their zeal for personal freedom. In 
the canon wherein thoy prouded against tho aliena- 
tion of their lands, among other charitable exceptions 
to this restraint they particularize the purchase of lib- 
erty. f Iq their transactions v, 'th tha great the same 
point was always strenuously labored. When they 
imposed penance, they were remarliably indulgent to 
persons of that rank; but tliey always made them 
purchase the remission of corporal austerity l)y acts 
of beneficence. They urged their powerful penitents 
to the enfranchisement of their own slaves, and to the 
redemption of those which belonged to others ; they 
directed them to the repair of highr. lys, and to the 
constru 'lion of churches, bridges, and other works 
of general utility. J They extracted the fruits of vir- 
tue even from crimes ; and whenever a great man 
expiated his private offences, he provided in the same 

• Bed. ffist. Eccl. T/i. 17. c. 13. t Spelm. Concil. p. 329. 

I Instanret etiam Dei ecclcsiam ; . . . . et instaaret rias publicM 
pontibas snper aquas pmtundas et super caenoeas vias ; . . . . mana- 
mlttat servos snos proprios, ot rcdimat ab aliis hominibas serros snos 
ad libertatem. — L Eccl. Edgari, U. 










act for the public happiness. The monasteries wero 
then the only bodies corporate in the kingdom ; and 
if any persons were desirous to perpetuate their char- 
ity by a fund for the relief of the sick or indigent, 
there was no other way than to confide this trust to 
some monastery. The monks were the sole channel 
through which the bounty of the rich could pass in 
any continued stream to the poor; and the people 
turned their eyes towards them in all their distresses. 
We must observe, that the monks of that time, es- 
pecially those from Ireland,* who had a considerable 
share in the conversion of all the northern parts, did 
not show that rapacious desire of riches which long 
disgraced and finally ruined their successors. Not 
only did they not seek, but seemed even to shun 
such donations. This prevented that alarm which 
might have arisen from an early and declared ava- 
rice. At this time the most fervent and holy ancho- 
rites retired to places the furthest that could be found 
from human concourse and help, to the most desolate 
and barren situations, which even from their horror 
seemed particularly adapted to men who had re- 
nounced the world. Many persons followed them in 
order to partake of their instructions and prayers, or 
to form themselves upon their example. An opinion 
of their miracles after their death drew still great- 
er numbers. Establishments were gradually made. 
The monastic life was frugal, and the government 
moderate. These causes drew a constant concourse. 
Sanctified deserts assumed a new face ; the marshes 

• Aidanns, Finan, Colmannns mirie ianctitatis faernnt et parsi- 

moniae Adeo antem sacerdotes erant illins temporis ab a>a> 

riti* immnnes, nt nee territoria nisi coacti acciperent. — Hen. Hun- 
tingd. Lib. III. p. 333. Bed. Hist. Eccl. Lib. IIL c. 26. 



were drained, and the lands cultivated. And as this 
revolution seemed rather the effect of the holiness 
of the place than of any natural causes, it increased 
their credit ; and every improvement drew with it a 
new donation. In this maimer the great abbeys of 
Croyland and Glastonbury, and many others, from 
tlie most obscure beginnings, were advanced to a de- 
gree of wealth and splendor little less than royal. 

In these rude ages government was not yet fixed 
upon solid principles, and everything was full of tu- 
mult and distraction. As the monasteries were bet- 
ter secured from violence by their character than any 
other places by laws, several great men, and even 
sovereign princes, were obliged to take refuge in con- 
vents; who, when, by a more happy revolution in 
their fortunes, they were reinstated in their former 
dignities, thought they could never make a sufficient 
return for the safety they had enjoyed under the sa- 
cred hospitality of these roofs. Not content to enrich 
them with ample possessions, that others also might 
partake of the protection they had experienced, they 
formally erected into an asylum those monasteries, 
and their adjacent territory. So that all thronged 
to that refuge who were rendered unquiet by their 
crimes, tlieir misfortunes, or the severity of their 
lords; and content to live under a government to 
which their minds were subject, they raised the im- 
portance of their masters by their numbers, their la- 
bor, and, above all, by an inviolable attachment. 

The monastery was always the place of sepul- 
ture for the greatest lords and kings. This added to 
the other causes of reverence a sort of sanctity, which, 
in universal opinion, always attends the repositories 
of the dead : and they acquired also thereby a more 








particular protection against the great and powerful ; 
for who would violate the tomb of his ancestors or his 
own? It was not an unnatural weakness to thuik 
that some advantage might be derived from 'jiug in 
holy places and amongst holy persons: and this su- 
perstition was fomented with the greatest industry 
and art. The monks of Glastonbury spread a notion 
that it was almost impossible any person should be 
damned whose body lay in their cemetery. This 
must be considered as coming in aid of the amplest 
of their resources, prayer for the dead. 

But there was no part of their policy, of whatever 
nature, that procured to them a greater or juster 
credit than their cultivation of learning and useful 
arts: for, if the monks contributed to the fall of 
science in the Roman Empire, it is certain that the 
introduction of learning and civility into tliis North- 
ern world is entirely owing to their labors. It is true 
tliat they cultivated letters only in a secondary way, 
and as subsidiary to religion. But the scheme of 
Christianity is such that it almost necessitates au 
attention to many kinds of learning. For the Scrip- 
ture is by no means an irrelative system of moral 
and divine truths ; but it stands connected with so 
many histories, and with the laws, opinions, and 
manners of so many various sorts of people, and in 
such different times, that it is altogether impossible 
to arrive to any tolerable knowledge of it without 
having recourse to much exterior inquiry : for which 
reason the progress of this religion has always been 
marked by that of letters. There were two other 
circuiastances at this time that contributed no less 
to the revival of learning. The sacred writings had 
not been translated into any vernacular language^ 


and even the ordinary service of the Church was still 
continued in the Latin tongue ; aU, therefore, who 
formed themselves for the mmistry, and hoped to 
make any figure in it, were in a manner driven to the 
study of tiie writers of polite antiquity, m order to 
qualify themselves for their most orduiary functions. 
By this means a practice liable in itself to great ob- 
jections had a considerable share in preserving tiie 
wrecks of Uterature, and was one means of convey- 
ing down to our times those inestimable monuments 
which otherwise, in the tumult of barbarous confu- 
sion on one hand, and untaught piety on the other, 
must inevitably have perished. The second circum- 
stance, the pilgrimages of that age, if considered m 
itself, was as liable to objection as the former ; but it 
proved of equal advantage to the cause of Uterature. 
A prmcipal object of these pious journeys was Rome, 
which contained aU the little that was left in the 
Western world of ancient learning and taste. The 
other great object of those pilgrimages was Jerusa- 
lem: this led them into the Grecian Empire, which 
stiU subsisted in the East with great majesty and 
power. Here the Greeks had not only not dibcontm- 
ued tiie ancient studies, but they added to tiie stock 
of arts many inventions of curiobity and convenience 
that were unknown to antiquity. Whoa, afterwai-ds, 
the Saracens prevailed in that part of the world, tiie 
pilj^rims had also by tiie same means au opportunity 
of profiting ^^^^ ^^^^ improvements of that labon- 
otiB people ; and however littie the majority of tiiese 
pious travellers might have had such objects in tiieir 
view, something useful must unavoidably have stucl: 
to them; a few certainly saw with more dit^< . lunout, 
and rendered iheir travels serviceable to their conn- 

^1 ni 




try by importing other things besides miracles and 
legends. Thus a communication was opened be- 
tween this remote island and countries of which it 
otherwise could then scarcely have heard mention 
made; and pilgrimages thus preserved that inter- 
course amongst mankind which is now formed by 
politics, commerce, and learned curiosity. 

It is not wholly unworthy of observation, that 
Providence, which strongly appears to have intend- 
ed the continual iuiermixture of mankind, never 
leaves the human mind destitute of a principle to 
effect it. This purpose is sometimes carried on by 
a sort of migratory instinct, sometimes by the spirit 
of conquest; at one time avarice drives men from 
their homes, at another they are actuated by a thirst 
of knowledge ; where none of these causes can op- 
erate, the sanctity of particular places attracts men 
from the most distant quarters. It was this motive 
which sent thousands in those ages to Jerusalem 
and Rome, and now, in a full tide, impels half the 
world annually to Mecca. 

By those voyages the seeds of various kinds of 
knowledge and improvement were at different times 
imported into England. They were cultivated in 
the leisure and retirement of monasteries; other- 
wise they could not have been cultivated at all: 
for it was altogether necessary to draw certain men 
from the general rude and fierce society, and wholly 
to set a bar between them and the barbarous life of 
the rest of the world, in order to fit them for study 
and the cultivation of arts and science. Accordingly, 
we find everywhere in the first institutions for the 
propagation of knowledge amongst any people, that 
those who followed it were set apart and secluded 
liom the mass of the community. 



The great ecclesiastical chair of this kingdom, for 
near a century, was filled by foreigners. They were 
nominated by the Popes, who were in that age just or 
politic enough to appoint persons of a merit in some 
degree adequate to that important charge. Through 
this series of foreign and learned prelates, continual 
accessions were made to the originally slender stock 
of English literature. The greatest and most valua- 
ble of these accessions was made in the time and by 
the care of Theodorus, the seventh Archbishop of Can- 
terbury. He was a Greek by birth, a man of a high 
ambitious spirit, and of a mind more liberal and tal- 
ents better cultivated than generally fell to the lot of 
the Western prelates. He first introduced the study 
of his native language into this island. Ho brought 
with him a number of valuable books in many fac- 
ulties, and amongst them a magnificent copy of the 
works of Homer, the most ancient and best of poets, 
and the best chosen to inspire a people just initiated 
into letters with an ardent love and with a true taste 
for the sciences. Under his influence a school was 
formed at Canterbury; and thus the other great 
fountain of knowledge, the Greek tongue, ^ „ j^ 
was opened in England in the year of our 
Lord 669. 

The southern parts of England received their im- 
provements directly through the channel of Rome. 
The kingdom of Northumberland, as soon as it was 
converted, began to contend with the southern prov- 
inces in an emulation of piety and learning. The 
ecclesiastics then [there ? ] also kept up and profited 
by their intercourse with Rome ; but they found their 
principal resources of knowledge from another and a 
more extraordinary quarter. The island of Hii, or 

* 1 







Columbkill * is a small and barren rock in the Western 
Ocean. But in those days it was high in reputation as 
the site of a monasterj which had acquired great re- 
nown for the rigor of its studies and the severity of its 
ascetic discipline. Its authority was extended over all 
the northern parts of Britain and Ireland ; and the 
monks of Hii even exercised episcopal jurisdiction over 
all those regions. They liad a considerable share both 
in the religious and literate institution of the Nortlium- 
brians. Another island, of still less importance, in the 
mouth of the Toes [Tweed ?], and called Lindisfarne, 
was about this time sanctified by the austerities of an 
hermit called Cuthbert. It soon became also a very 
celebrated monastery. It was, from a dread of tlio 
ravages of pirates, removed first to the adjacent part 
of the continent, and on the same account finally to 
Durham. The heads of this monastery omitted noth- 
ing whicli could contribute to the glory of their found- 
er and to the dignity of their house, which became, in 
a very short time, by their assiduous endeavors, the 
most considerable school perhaps in Europe. 

The great and justest boast of this monastery is 
the Venerable Beda, who was educated and spent his 
whole life there. An account of his writings is an 
account of the English learning in tliat age, taken 
in its most advantageous view. Many of his works 
remain, and he wrote both in prose and verse, antl 
upon all sorts of subjects. His theology forms the 
most considerable part of his writings. He wroto 
comments upon almost the whole Scripture, and sev- 
eral homilies on the principal festivals of the Church. 
Both the comments and sermons are generally alle- 
gorical in tlie construction of the text, and simj)ly 

* Icolmkill, or lona. 



moral in the application. In these discourses several 
things seem strained and fanciful ; but herein he fol- 
lowed entirely the manner of the earlier fathers, from 
whom the greatest part of his divinity is not so much 
imitated as extracted. The systematic and logical 
method, which seems to have been first introduced 
into theology by John of Damascus, and which after- 
wards was known by the name of School Divinity, 
was not then in use, at least in the Western Church, 
though soon after it made an amazing progress. In 
this scheme the allegorical gave way to tlie literal 
explication, the imagination had less scope, and the 
affections were less touched. But it prevailed by an 
appearance more solid and philosophical, by an or- 
der more scientific, and by a readiness of application 
either for the solution or the exciting of doubts and 

They also cultivated in this monastery the study 
of natural philosophy and astronomy. There remain 
of Beda one entire book and some scattered essays 
on those subjects. This book, De Rerum Natura, is 
concise and methodical, and contains no very con- 
temptible abstract of the physics which were taught 
in the decline of the Roman Empire. It was some- 
what unfortunate that the infancy of English loaiii- 
ing was supported by the dotage of the Roman, and 
tliat even the spring-head from whence they drew 
their instructions was itself corrupted. However, the 
works of the great masters of the ancient science still 
remained ; but in natural philosophy the worst was 
the most fashionable. The Epicurean physics, the 
most approaching to rational, had long lost all credit 
by being made the support of an impious theology 
and a loose morality. The fine visions of Plato fell 






I- u 

? n 

mto some discredit bj the abuse which heretioa had 
made of them ; and tiie writings of Aristotle seem to 
have been then the only ones much regarded, even 
in natural philosophy, in which branch of science 
alone they are unworthy of him. Beda entirely 
follows his system. The appearances of Nature are 
explained by matter and form, and by the four vul- 
gar elements, acted upon by the four supposed quali- 
ties of hot, dry, moist, and cold. His astronomy is 
on the common system of the ancients, sufficient for 
the few purposes to which they applied it, but other- 
wise imperfect and grossly erroneous. He makes the 
moon larger than the earth ; thougli a reflection on 
the nature of eclipses, which he understood, might 
have satisfied him of the contrary. But he had so 
much to copy that he had little time to examine. 
These speculations, however erroneous, were still 
useful ; for, though men err in assigning the causes 
of natural operations, the works of Nature ar« Ijy 
this means brought under their consideration, which 
cannot be done without enlarging the mind. The 
science may be false or frivolous ; the improvement 
will be real. It may here be remarked, that soon 
afterwards the monks began to apply themselves to 
astronomy and chronology, from tbe disputes, which 
wore carried on with so much heat and so little ef- 
fect, concerning the proper time of celebrating Eastr 
c; ; and the English owed the cultivation of these no- 
ble sciences to one of the most trivial controversies 
of ecclesiastic discipline. 

Beda did not confine his attention to those superior 
sciences. He treated of music, and of rhetoric, of 
grammar, and the art of versification, and of arith- 
metic, both by letters and on the fingers; and his 


r% it; J[ i 



work on this lost subject is the only one in which 
that piece of antique curiosity has been preserved to 
us. All these are short pieces ; some of them are in 
the catechetical method, and seem designed for tlie 
immediate use of tlie pupils in his monastery, in or- 
der to furnish them with some leading ideas in the 
rudiments of these arts, then newly introduced into 
his country. He likewise made, and probably for the 
same purpose, a very ample and valuable collection 
of short philosophical, political, and moral maxims, 
from Aristotle, Plato, Seneca, and oilier sages of 
heathen antiquity. He made a separate book of 
shining commonplaces and remarkable passagca ex- 
tracted from the works of Cicero, of whom he was 
a great admirer, though he seems to have been not 
an hap-^v or diligent imitator in his style. From a 
view of these pieces we may form an idea of what 
stock in the science the English at that time pos- 
sessed, and what advances they had made. That 
work of Beda which is the best known and most 
esteemed is the Ecclesiastical History of the Eng- 
lish nation. Disgraced by a want of choice and 
frequently by a confused ill disposition of his mat- 
ter, and blemished with a degree of credulity next 
to infantine, it is still a valuable, and for the time 
a surprising performance. The book opens witli a 
description of this island which would not have dis- 
graced a classical author; and he has prefixed to 
it a chronological abridgment of sacred and profane 
history connected, from the beginning of the world, 
which, though not critically adapted to his main de- 
sign, is of far more intrinsic value, and indeed dis- 
plays a vast fund of historical erudition. On the 
whole, though this father of the English learning 


: i 







seeniH to have been but a genius of the middle class, 
neither elevated nor subtile, and one who wrote in a 
low style, simple, but not elegant, yet, when we re- 
flect upon the time in which he lived, the place in 
which he spent his whole life, within the walls of a 
monastery, in so remote and wild a country, it is im- 
possible to refuse him the praise of an incredible in- 
dustry and a generous thirst of knowledge. 

That a nation who not fifty years before had but 
just begun to emerge from a barbarism so perfect 
that they were unfurnished even with an alphabet 
should in so short a time have established so flour- 
ishing a seminary of learning, and have produced so 
eminent a teacher, is a circumstance which I imagine 
no other nation besides England can boast. 

Hitherto we have spoken only of their Latin and 
Greek literature. They cultivated also their native 
language, which, according to the opinions of the 
most adequate judges, was deficient neither in ener- 
gy nor beauty, and was possessed of such an happy 
dcxibility as to be capable of expressing with grace 
and effect every new technical idea introduced either 
by theology or science. They were fond of poetry ; 
they sung at all their feasts ; and it was counted ex- 
tremely disgraceful not to be able to take a part in 
these performances, even when they challenged each 
other to a sudden exertion of the | 'oetic spirit. Ca;d- 
mon, a''terwards one of the mosc eminent of their 
poets, was disgraced in this manner int'> a'l exertion 
of a latent genius. He was desired i;- !:i-j turn to 
sing, but, being ignorant and full of natural sensi- 
bility, retired in confusion from the company, and by 
instant and strenuous application soon became a dis- 
tinguished proficient in the art. 




nRiia or anolO'Saxon kinos fbom etiielbkbt to 
alfbed: with the imtasion or the danes. 

The Christian religion, having once taken root in 
Kent, spread itself with great rapidity throiighout 
all the other Saxon kingdoms in England. The 
manners of the Saxons underwent a notable alter- 
ation by this change in their religion: their feroci- 
ty was much abated ; they became more mild and 
sociable; and their laws began to partake of the 
softness of their manners, everywhere recommend- 
ing mercy and a tenderness for Christian blood. 
There never was any people who embraced religion 
with a more fervent zeal than the Anglo-Saxons, 
nor with more simplicity of spirit. Their history 
for a long time shows us a remarkable conflict be- 
tween their dispositions and their principles. Tliis 
conflict produced no medium, because they were 
absolutely contrary, and both operated witli almost 
equal violence. Great crimes and extravagant pen- 
ances, rapine and an entire resignation of worldly 
goods, rapes and vows of perpetual chastity, kuc- 
ceeded each other in the same persons. There 
was nothing which the violence of their passions 
could not induce them to commit ; nothing to which 
thoy did not submit to atone for their offences, when 
reflection gave an opportunity to repent. But by 
degrees the sanctions of religion began to prepon- 
derate ; and as the monks at this time attracted all 
the religious veneration, religion everywhere began 
to relish of the cloister: an inactive spirit, and a 
spirit of scruples prevailed; they dreaded to put 




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the greatest criminal to death ; they scrupled to 
engage in any worldly functions. A king of the 
Saxons dreaded that God would call him to an ac- 
count for "the time which he spent in his temporal 
affairs and liad stolen from prayer. It was frequent 
for kings to go on pilgrimages to Rome or to Je- 
rusalem, on foot, and under circumstances of great 
hardship. Several kings resigned their crowns to de- 
vote themselves to religious contemplation in mon- 
asteries, — more at that time and in this nation than 
in all other nations and in all times. This, as it 
introduced great mildness into the tempers of the 
people, made them less warlike, and consequently 
prepared the way to their forming one body under 
Egbert, and for the other changes which followed. 

The kingdom of Wessex, by the wisdom and cour- 
age of King Ina, the greatest legislator and politician 
of those times, had swallowed up Cornwall, for a 
while a refuge for some of the old Britons, together 
with the little kingdom of the South Saxons. By 
this augmentation it stretched from the Land's End 
to the borders of Kent, the Thames flowing on the 
north, the ocean washing it on the south. By their 
situation the people of Wessex naturally came to en- 
gross the little trade which then fed the revenues of 
England ; and their minds were somewhat opened by 
a foreign communication, by which they became more 
civilized and better acquainted with the arts of war 
and of government. Such was the condition of 
the kingdom of Wessex, when Egbert was 
called to the throne of his ancestors. The 
civil commc'tions which for some time prevailed had 
driven this prince early in life into an useful banish- 
ment. He was honorably received at the court of 

A. S. 790. 




Charlemagne, where he had an opportunity of study- 
ing government in the best scliool, and of forming 
himself after the most perfect model. Whilst Cliarlo- 
magne was reducing the continent of Europe into one 
empire, Egbert reduced England into one kingdom. 
Tlio state of his own dominions, ;rfectly united un- 
der him, with the other advantages which we havo 
just mentioned, and the state of the neighboring Sax- 
on governments, made this reduction less difficult. 
Besides Wessex, there were but two kingdoms of con- 
sideration in England, — Mercia and Northumberland. 
They were powerful enough in the advantages of Na- 
ture, but reduced to great weakness by their divis- 
ions. As there is nothing of more moment to a>iy 
country than to settle the succession of its govern- 
ment on clear and invariable principles, the Saxon 
monarchies, which were supported by no such prin- 
ciples, were continually tottering. The right of gov- 
ernment sometimes was considered as in the eldest 
son, sometimes in all ; sometimes the will of the de- 
ceased prince disposed of the crown, sometimes a 
popular election bestowed it. The consequence of 
this was the frequent division and frequent reunion 
of the same territory, which were productive of infi- 
nite mischief; many various principles of succession 
gave titles to some, pretensions to more ; and plots, 
cabals, and crimes could not be wanting to all the 
pretenders. Thus was Mercia torn to pieces ; and 
the kingdom of Northumberland, assaulted on one 
side by the Scots, and ravaged on the other by the 
Danish incursions, could not recover from a long an- 
archy into which its intestine divisions had plunged 
it. Egbert knew how to make advantage of tliese 
divisions : fomenting them by his policy at first, and 



r ■■ 






I t 



quelling them afterwards by his sword, he reduced 
these two kingdoms under his government. The 
same power which conquered Mercia and Northum- 
berland made the reduction of Kent and Essex easy, 
— the people on all hands the more readily submit- 
ting, because there was no change made in their laws, 
manners, or the form of their government. 
Egbert, Egbert, when he had brought all England 
i.D. 827. under his dominion, made the "Welsh tribu- 
tary, and carried his arms with success into Scotland, 
assumed the title of Monarch of all Britain.* The 
southern part of the island was now for tlie first time 
authentically known by the name of England, and by 
every appearance promised to have arrived at the for- 
tunate moment for forming a permanent and splen- 
did monarchy. But Egbert had not reigned seven 
years in peace, when the Danes, who had before 
showed themselves in some scattered parties, and 
made some inconsiderable descents, entered 
^■°' ***■ the kingdom in a formidable body. This 
people came from the same place whence the Eng- 
lish themselves were derived, and they differed from 
them in little else than that they still retained their 
original barbarity and heathenism. These, assisted 
by the Norwegians, and other people of Scandinavia, 
were the last torrent of the Northern ravagers which 
overflowed Europe. What is remarkable, they at- 
tacked England and France when these two king- 
doms were in the height of their grandeur, — France 
under Charlemagne, England united by Egbert. The 
good fortune of Egbert met its first check from these 
people, who defeated his forces with great slaughter 
near Charmouth in Dorsetshire. It generally hap- 

No Saxon monarch until Athelstan, 



pens that a new nation, with a new method of mak- 
ing war, succeeds against a people only exercised in 
arms by their own civil dissensions. Besides, Eng- 
land, newly united, was not without those jealousies 
and that disaffection which give such great advan- 
tage to au invader. But the vigilance and coui'- 
age of Egbert repaired this defeat ; lie repulsed the 
Danes ; and died soon after at Winchester, full of 
years and glory. 

He left a great, but an endangered sue- Etheiwoir, 
cession, to his son Ethelwolf, who was a mild *' "" *"' 
and virtuous prince, full of a timid piety, vvhich ut- 
terly disqualifies for government ; and he began to 
govern at a time when the greatest capacity was 
wanted. The Danes pour in upon every side ; the 
king rouses from his lethargy ; battles are fought 
with various success, which it were useless and te- 
dious to recount. The event seems to have been, 
that in some corners of the kingdom the Danes 
gained a few inconsidera* le settlements; the rest of 
the kingdom, after being terribly ravaged, was left 
a little time to recover, in order to be plundered 
anew. But the weak prince took no advantage of 
this time to concert a regular plan of defence, or 
to rouse a proper spirit in his people. Yielding 
himself wholly to speculative devotion, he entirely 
neglected his affairs, and, to complete the ruin of 
his kingdom, abandoned it, in such critical circum- 
stances, to make a pilgrimage to Rome. At Rome 
he behaved in the manner that suiled his little ge- 
nius, in making charitable foundations, and in ex- 
tending the Rome-scot or Peter-pence, which 11)3 
folly of some princes of the Heptarchy had granted 
for their particular dominions, over the whole king- 







11 m 


dom. His shameful desertion of his country raised 
so general a discontent, that in his absence his own 
son, with the principal of his nobility and bishops, 
conspired against him. A*, his return, he found, 
however, that several still adhered to him ; but here, 
too, incapable of acting with vigor, he agreed to an 
accommodation, which placed the crown on the head 
of his rebellious son, and only left to himself a sphere 
of government as narrow as his genius, — the dis- 
trict of Kent, whither he retired to enjoy an inglo- 
rious privacy with a wife whom ho had married in 
jxMnA, On his death, his son Ethelred still held 
4.0.8M. ^jjg crown, which he had preoccupied by 
his rebellion, and which he polluted with a new 
stain. He married his father's widow. The con- 
fused history of these times furnishes no clear ac- 
count either of the successions of the kings or of 
their ^ctions. During the reign of this prince and 
his successors Ethelbert and Ethelred, the people in 
several parts of England seom to have withdrawn 
from the kingdom of Wessex, and to have revived 
their former independency. This, added to the weak- 
ness of the government, made way for new swarms 
of lianes, who burst in upon this ill-govjrned and 
divided people, ravaging the whole country in a 
terrible manner, but principally directing their fury 
against every monument of civility or piety. They 
had now formed a regular establishment in North- 
umberland, and gained a very considerable footing in 
Mercia and East Anglia; they hovered over every 
part of the kingdom with their fleets ; and being es- 
tablished in many places in the heart of the coim- 
try, nothing s-^emed able to resist them. 




A. a. tn. 


It was in the midst of tlicse distractions 
that Alfred succeeded to a sceptre which 
was threatened every moment to be wrenched from 
his hands. He was then only twenty-two years of 
age, but exercised from his infancy ui troubles and 
in wars that formed and displayed his virtue. Some 
of its best provinces were torn from his kingdom, 
which was shrunk to the ancient bounds of Wessex ; 
and what remained was weakened by dissension, by 
a long war, by a raging pestilence, and surrounded 
by enemies whose numbers seemed inexhaustible, and 
whose ftiry was equally increased by victories or de- 
feats. All these difficulties served only to increase 
the vigor of his mind. He took the field without 
delay ; but he was defeated with considerable los' 
This ominous defeat displayed more fully the great- 
ness of his courage and capacity, which found in 
desperate hopes and a ruined kingdom such power- 
ful resources. In a short time after he was in a 
condition to be respected : but he was not led away 
by the ambition of a young warrior. He nepleited 
no measures to procure peace for his country, which 
wanted a respite from the calai-^i- ies which had long 
oppressed it. A peace was concluded for Wessex. 
Then the Danes turned their faces once more to- 
wards Mercia and East Anglia. They had before 
stripped the inhabitants of all their movable sub- 
stance, and now they proceeded without resistance 
to seize upou their lands. Their success encouraged 
new swarms of Danes to crowd over, who, finding 



i ,' 


all the northern parts of England possessed by their 
friends, rushed into Wessex. They were adventur- 
ers under diflFerent and independent leaders; and 
a peace little regarded by the particular party that 
made it had no influence at all upon the others. 
Alfred opposed this shock with so much 
firmness that the barbarians had recourse 
to a stratagem : they pretended to treat ; but taking 
advantage of the truce, they routed a body of the 
West Saxon cavalry that were off their guard, mount- 
ed their horses, and, crossing the country with amaz- 
ing celerity, surprised the city of Exeter. This was 
an acquisition of infinite advantage to their affairs, 
as it secured them a port in the midst of Wessex. 
Alfred, mortified at this series of misfortunes, per- 
ceived clearly that nothing could dislodge the Danes, 
or redress their continual incursions, but a powerful 
fleet which might intercept them at sea. The want 
of this, principally, gave rise to the success of that 
people. They used suddenly to land and ravage a 
part of the country; when a force opposed them, 
they retired to their ships, and passed to some other 
part, which in a like manner they ravaged, and then 
retired as before, until the country, entirely harassed, 
pillaged, and wasted by these incursions, was no lon- 
ger able to resist them. Then they venttired safely 
to enter a desolated and disheartened country, and 
to establish themselves in it. These considerations 
made Alfred resolve upon equipping a fleet. In this 
enterprise nothing but difficulties presented them- 
selves : his revenue was scanty, and his subjects alto- 
gether unskilled in maritime affairs, either as to the 
construction or the navigation of ships. He did not 
therefore despair. With great promises attend g a 



little money, he engaged in his service a number of 
Frisian seamen, neighbors to the Danes, and pirates, 
as they were. He brought, by the same means, ship- 
wrights from the continent. He was himself present 
to everything ; and having performed the part of a 
king in drawing together supplies of every kind, he 
descended with no less dignity into the artist, — im- 
proving on the construction, inventing neif machines, 
and supplying by the greatness of his genius the 
defe"* a:K' imperfections of the arts in that rude 
per his indefatigable application the first 

Ej. V V was in a very short time in readiness to 

pu ' At that time the Danish fleet of one hun- 

diea uuc twen; -five ships stood with full sail for 
Exeter ; they met ; but, with an omen prosperous to 
the new naval power, the Danish fleet was ertirely 
vanquished and dispersed. This success drew on the 
Burrendry of Exeter, and a peace, which Alfred much 
wanted to put the affairs of his kingdom in order. 

This peace, however, did not last long. As the 
Danes were continually pouring into some part of Eng- 
land, they found most parts already in Danish hands; 
BO that all these parties naturally directed their course 
to the only English kingdom. All the Danes con- 
spired to put them in possession of it, and bursting 
unexpectedly with the united force of their whole 
body upon Wessex, Alfred was entirely overwhelmed, 
and obliged to drive before the storm of his fortune. 
He fled in disguise into a fastness in the ^ ^ „^ 
Isle of Athelney, where he remained four 
months in the lowest state of indigence, supported by 
an heroic humility, and that spirit of piety which 
neither adverse *brtune nor prosperity could over- 
come. It if, much to be lamented that a character 






is il 





SO formed to interest all men, involved in -eversos of 
fortune that make the most agrooabk' md useful part 
of history, should be only celebrated by pens so little 
suitable to the dignity of the subject. These revolu- 
tions are so little prepared, that we neither can per- 
ceive distinctly the causes which sunk him nor tliose 
whicli again raised him to power. A few naked facts 
are all our stock. From these we see Alfred, assisted 
by the casual success of one of his nobles, issuing 
from his retreat; he heads a powerful army once 
more, defeats the Danes, drives them out of Wes- 
sex, follows his blow, expels them from Mercia, sub- 
dues tliem in Northumberland, and makes them trib- 
utary in East Anglia; and tlms established by a 
number of victories in a full peace, he is presented 
to us in tliat character which makes him venerable 
to posterity. It is a refreshment, in the midst of 
such a gloomy waste of barbarism and desolation, 
to fall upon so fair and cultivated a spot. 

Wlieu Alfred had once more reunited the 
kingdoms of his ancestors, he found the 
whole face of things in the most desperate condi- 
tion : there was no observance of law and order ; 
religion had no force ; there was no honest indus- 
try ; thp most squalid poverty and the grossest igno- 
rance had overspread the whole kingdom. Alfred 
at once enterprised the cure of all these evils. To 
remedy the disorders in the government, he 
revived, improved, and digested all the Sax- 
on institutions, insomuch that he is generally hon- 
ored as the founder of our laws and Constitution.* 

* Historians, copying after one another, au~. examining little, 
have uttributed to this monarch the institution of juries, an insti* 
tution which certainly did never prevail amongst the Saxons. Tbej 

A. S. 880. 




Tho shire he divided into hundreds, the hundreds 
into tithings; every freeman was obliged to he en- 
tered into some tithing, the members of wliich were 
mutually bound for each other, for the preservation 
of the peace, and the avoiding theft and rapine. For 
securing the liberty of the subject, he mtroduced the 
method of giving bail, the most certain fence against 
the abuses of power It has been observed that tlie 
reigns of weak princes are times favorable to liberty ; 
but the ''ett and bravest of all the English princes 
is the ie r of their freedom. This great man was 
even jealouE jf the privileges of his subjects ; and as 
his whole life was spent in protecting them, his last 
will breathes tho same spirit, declaring that ho had 
left his people as free as their own tlioughis. He not 
only collected with great care a complete body of 
laws, but ho wrote comments on them for the instruc- 
tion of his judges, who were in general, by tlie misfor- 

have likewise attributed to hioi the distribution of England into 
shires, hundreds, and tithing end of appointing officers over these 
dirisions. But it is very obvious that tho shires were never settled 
upon any regular plpn, nor are they the result if any single design. 
But these reports, however ill imagiiivJ, are a strong proof of the 
high veneration in which this excellent prince has always been held ; 
as it has been thought that the attributing these regulations to him 
would endear them to the nation. He probably settled thorn in inch 
an order, and made such reformations in his government, that some 
of the institutions themselves which he improved have been attributed 
to him : and, indeed, there was one work of his which serves to fur- 
nish us with a hither idea of the political rapacity of that great man 
than any of thesa fictions. He made a general survey and register 
of all the property in the kingdom, who held it, and what it was dis- 
tinctly : a vast work for an ago of ignorance and time of confusion, 
which has been neglected in more civilized nations and settled times. 
It wa8 called the Roll of Winton, and served as a model of a work 
of thek same kind made by William the Conqueror. 












tu. n{ the time, ignorant. And if he took caro to 
correct thoir ignorance, he was rigorous towards their 
corruption. He inquired strictlj into their conduct , 
ho heard appeals in person ; he held his Wittona- 
gemotes, or Parliaments, frequentlj ; and kept every 
part of his goveruiucnt in health and vigor. 

Nor was he less solicitous for the defence than he 
had shown himself for the regulation of his kingdom. 
He nourished with particular care the new uaval 
strength which he had established ; he built forts and 
castles in the most important posts ; he settled bea- 
cons to spread an alarm on the arrival of an enemy ; 
and ordered his militia in such a manner that there 
was always a great power in readiness to march, well 
appointed and well disciplined. But that a suitable 
revenue might not be wanting for the support of his 
fleets and fortifications, he "ive great encouragement 
to trade, which, by the i-. .los on the coasts, and the 
rapine and iiyustice exercised by the people witliin, 
had long become a stranger to this island. 

In the midst of these various and important cares, 
he gave a peculiar attention to learning, which by 
tlie rage of the late wars had been entirely eztin- 
guishcd in his kingdom. " Very few there were " 
(says this monarch) " on this side the Humber that 
understood their ordinary prayers, or that were able 
to translate any Latin book into English, — so few, 
that I do not remember even one qualified to the 
southward of the Thames when I began my reign." 
To cure this deplorable ignorance, he was indefatiga- 
ble in his endeavors to bring into England men of 
learning in all branches from every part of Europe, 
and unbounded in his liberality to them. He enact- 
ed by a law that every person possessed of two hides 





of land should send their children to school until six- 
teen. Wi-ely considering where to put a stop to his 
love even of the liberal arts, which are only suited to 
a liberal condition, ho entcrpri^ed yet a greater de- 
sign than that of forming the growing generation, — 
to instruct even the grown : enjoining all his earldor- 
men and sheriffs immediately to apply themselves to 
learning, or to quit their offices. To facilitate these 
great purposes, he mrde a regular fou'"^.ation of an 
university, which with great reason is ..jlievcd to 
have been at Oxford. Whatever trouble he took to 
extend the benefits of learning amongst hi' suiijiM-N, 
he showed the example himself, and applied o Uio 
sultivation of his mind with unp • ."'elod dii ;,i-!iCO 
and success. He could neither i..^ nor write at 
twelve years old ; but he improved his time in such a 
manner that he became one of the most knowing men 
of his age, in geometry, in philosophy, in arcliiteo- 
ture, and in music. He applied himself to the im- 
provement of his native language ; he translated sev- 
eral valuable works from Latin; and wrote a vast 
number of poems in the Saxon tongue with a wonder- 
ful facility and happiness. He not only excelled in 
the theory of the arts and sciences, but pos.nssed a 
great mechanical genius for the executive part; he 
improved the manne ship-building, introduced a 
more beautiful and Cv-iraodious architecture, and 
even taught his countrymen the art of making bricks, 
— most of the buildings having been of wood before 
his time. In a word, he comprehended in the greatr 
ness of his mind the whole of government and all its 
parts at once, and, what is most difficult to human 
frailty, was at the same time sublime and minute. 
Religion, which in Alfred's father was so piejudi- 







cial to affairs, without being in him at all inferior in 
its zeal and fervor, was of a more enlarged and noble 
kind ; far from being a prejudice to his government, 
it seems to have been the principle that supported 
him in so many fatigues, and fed like an abun- 
dant source his civil and military virtues. To his re- 
ligious exercises and studies he devoted a full third 
part of his time. It is pleasant to trace a genius even 
in its smallest exertions, — in measuring and allot- 
ting his time for the variety of business he was en- 
gaged in. According to his severe and methodical 
custom, he had a sort of wax candles made of differ- 
ent colors in different proportions, according to the 
time he allotted to each particular affair ; as he car- 
ried these about with him wherever he went, to make 
them burn evenly he invented horn lanterns. One 
cannot help being amazed that a prince, who lived 
in such turbulent times, who commanded personally 
in fifty-four pitched battles, who had so disordered 
a province to regulate, who was not only a legislator, 
but a judge, and who was continually superintend- 
ing his armies, his navies, the traffic of his kingdom, 
his revenues, and the conduct of all his officers, 
could have bestowed so much of his time on relig- 
ious exercises and speculative knowledge; but the 
exertion of all his faculties and virtues seemed to 
have given a mutual strength to all of them. Thus 
all historians speak of this prince, whose whole his- 
tory was one panegyric ; and whatever dark spots of 
human frailty may have adhered to such a charac- 
ter, they are entirely hid in the splendor of his many 
shining qualities and grand virtues, that throw a glory 
over the obscure period in which he lived, and which 
is for no other reason worthy of our knowledge. 







The latter part of his reign was molested with 
new and formidable attempts from the Danes: but 
they no longer found the country in its former con- 
dition; their fleets were attacked; and those that 
landed found a strong and regular opposition. There 
were now fortresses which restrained their ravages, 
and armies well appointed to oppose them in the 
field; they were defeated in a pitched battle; and 
after several desperate marches from one part of the 
country to the other, everywhere harassed ^ „ g,^ 
and hunted, they were glad to return with 
half their number, and to leave Alfred in quiet to 
accomplish the great things he had projected. Tliis 
prince reigned twenty-seven years, and died at last 
of a disorder in his bowels, which had afflicted him, 
without interrupting his designs or souring his tem- 
per, during the greatest part of his life. 



Hi9 son Edward succeeded. Though of Ed»ard, 
less learning than his father, he equalled *-°-*"- 
him in his political virtues. He made war with suc- 
cess on the Welsh, the Scots, and the Danes, and 
left his kingdom strongly fortified, and exercised, 
not weakened, with the enterprises of a vigorous 
reign. Because his son Edmund was under age, 
the crown was set on the head of his illegitimate 
offspring, Athelstan. His, like the reigns Atheiiun, 
of all the princes of this time, was molested 
by the continual incursions of the Danes ; and noth- 




m ' 





A. D. 043. 

A. D. 94T. 

A. D. 96T 

Ing but a succession of men of spirit, capacity, and 
love of their country, whicli providentially happened 
at this time, could ward off the ruin of the kingdom. 
Such Athelstan was ; and such was his brother Ed- 
mund, who reigned five years with great 
reputation, but was at length, by an obscure 
ruffian, assassinated in his own palace. Edred, his 
brother, succeeded to the late monarchy: 
though he had left two sons, Edwin and 
Edgar, both were passed by on account of their mi- 
nority. But on this prince's death, which happened 
after a troublesome reign of ten years, valiantly 
supported against continual inroads of the 
Danes, the crown devolved on Edwin ; of 
whom little can be said, because his reign was short, 
and he was so embroiled with his clergy that we can 
take his character only from the monks, who in such 
a case are suspicious authority. 
Edgar, Edgar, the second son of King Edmund, 

A. D. 969. g^jjjg young to the throne ; but he had the 
happiness to have his youth formed and his kingdom 
ruled by men of experience, virtue, and authority. 
The celebrated Dunstan was his first minister, and 
had a mighty influence over all his actions. Tliis 
prelate had been educated abroad, and had seen the 
world to advantage. As he had great power at 
court by the superior wisdom of his counsels, so by 
the sanctity of his life he had great credit with the 
people, which gave a firmness to the government of 
his master, whose private character was in many 
respects extremely exceptionable. It was in his 
reign, and chiefly by the meaus of his minister, 
Dunstan, that the monks, who had long prevailed in 
the opinion of the generality of the people, gave a to- 




tal overthrow to their rivals, the secular clergy. Tlie 
secular clergy were at this time for the most part 
married, and were therefore too near the common 
modes of mankind to draw a great deal of their re- 
spect ; tlieir character was supported by a very small 
portion of learning, and their lives were not such 
as people wish to see in the clergy. But the monks 
were unmarried, austere in their lives, regular in 
their duties, possessed of tlie learning of the times, 
well united under a proper subordination, full of 
art, and implacable towards their enemies. Tliese 
circumstances, concurring with the dispositions of 
the king and the designs of Dunstan, prevailed so 
far that it was agreed in a council convened for that 
purpose to expel the secular clergy from their liv- 
ings, and to supply their places with monks, through- 
out the kingdom. Altliough the partisans of the 
secular priests were not a few, nor of the lowest 
class, yet they were unable to withstand the cur- 
rent of the popular desire, strengthened by tlie au- 
thority of a potent and respected monarch. How- 
ever, there was a seed of discontent sown on this oc- 
casion, which grew up afterwards to the mutual de- 
struction of all the parties. During the whole reign 
of Edgar, as he had secured the most popular part 
of the clergy, and with them the people, in his in- 
terests, there was no internal disturbance ; there was 
no foreign war, because this prince was always ready 
for war. But he principally owed his security to 
the care he took of his naval power, which was much 
greater and better regulated than that of any Eng- 
lish monarch before him. He had three fleets al- 
ways equipped, one of which annually sailed round 
the island. Thus the Danes, the Scots, tlie Irish, 







and the Welsh were kept in awe. He assumed the 
title of King of all Albion. His court was magnifi- 
cent, and much frequented by strangers. His reve- 
nues were in excellent order, and no prince of his 
time supported the royal character with more dig- 

Edgar had two wives, Elfleda and Elfrida. By the 
first he had a son called Edward ; the second bore 
him one called Ethelred. On Edgar's death, Ed- 
EdwaM, ward, in the usual order of succession, was 
*•"■»"• called to the throne; but Elfrida caballed 
ill favor of her son, and finding it impossible to set 
him up in the life of his brother, she murdered him 
with her own hands in her castle of Corfe, whither 
he had retired to refresh himself, wearied with hunt- 
Etheind, ing. Ethelred, who by the crimes of his 
i.o.»7». mother ascended a throne sprinkled with 
his brother's blood, had a part to act which ex- 
ceeded the capacity that could be expected in one 
of his youth and inexperience. The partisans of 
the secular clergy, who were kept down by the vig- 
or of Edgar's government, thought this a fit time to 
renew their pretensions. The monks defended them- 
selves in their possession ; there was no moderation 
on either side, and the whole nation joined in these 
parties. The murder of Edward threw an odious 
stain on the kmg, though he was wholly innocent 
of that crime. There was a general discontent, and 
every corner was full of murmurs and cabals. In this 
state of the kingdom, it was equally dangerous to ex- 
ert the fulness of the sovereign authority or to suf- 
fer it to relax. The temper of the king was most 
inclined to the latter method, which is of all things 
the worst. A weak government, too easy- 'uffers 


v 1 i 

11 «* 





evils to grow which often make the most rigor, s 
and illegal proceedings necessary. Through an ex- 
treme lenity it is on some occasions tyrannical. This 
was the condition of Ethelred's nobility, who, by be- 
ing permitted everything, were never contented. 

Thus all the principal men held a sort of factious 
and independent authority; they despised the king, 
they oppressed the people, and they hated one anoth- 
er. The Danes, in every part of England but Wes- 
scx as numerous as the English themselves, and in 
many parts more numerous, were ready to take ad- 
vantage of these disoi tiers, and walt^id with i'npatience 
some new aitempt from abroad, that they might rise 
in favor of the invaders. They were not long with- 
out such an occasion ; the Danes pour in almost upon 
every part at <^ncQ, anu distract the defence which 
the weak prince was preparing to make. 

In those days of wretchedness and ignorance, when 
all the maritime parts of Europe were attacked by 
these formidable enemies at once, they never thought 
of entering into any alliance agai ist them ; they 
equally neglected the other obvious method to pre- 
vent their incursions, which was, to carry the war 
into the invaders' country. 

What aggravated these calamities, the no- ^^ ^ 
bility. mostly disaffeoted to the king, and en- 
tertainmg very little regard to their country, made, 
some of them, a weak and cowardly opposition to the 
enemy; some actually betrayed their trust; somo 
even were found wlio undertook the tradp of piracy 
themselves. It was in this condition, that Edric, 
Duke of Mercia, a man of some ability, but light, 
inconstant, and utterly devoid of all principle, pro- 
posed to buy a peace from the Danes. The gen- 

VOl. VII. 






eral weakness and consternation disposed t' king 
and people to take this pernicious advice. At first 
10,000^. was given to the Danes, who re- 
*'"■*'*■ tired with this money and the rest of their 
plunder. The English were now, for the first time, 
taxed to supply this payment. The imposition was 
called Danegelt, not more burdensome in the thing 
than scandalous in the name. The scheme of pur- 
chasing peaca not only gave rise to many internal 
hardships, but, whilst it weakened the kingdom, it 
inspired such a desire of invading it to tV'> enemy, 
that Sweyn, King of Denmark, came in person soon 
after with a prodigious fleet and army. The English, 
having once found the method of diverting the storm 
by an inglorious bargain, could not bear to think of 
any other way p' resistance. A greater sum, 48,000^., 
was now paid, whiuh the Danes accepted with pleas- 
ure, as they could by this means exhaust their ene- 
mies and enrich themselves with little danger or 
trouble. With very short intermissions they still re- 
turned, continually increasing in their demands. In 
a few years they extorted upwards of 160,000Z. from 
the English, besides an annual tribute of 48,O00Z. 
The country was wholly exhausted both of money 
and spirit. The Danes in England, under the pro- 
tection of the foreign Danes, committed a thousand 
insolencies; and so infatuated with stupidity and 
baseness were the English at this time, that they 
employed hardly any other soldiers for their defence. 
In this state of shame and misery, their 
sufferings suggested to them a design rather 
desperate than brave. They resolved on a massacre 
of the Danes. Some authors say, that in one night 
the whole race was cut off. Many, probably all the 




military men, were so destroyed. But this massacre, 
injudicious bs it was cruel, was certainly not uni- 
versal ; nor did i* serve any other or better end than 
to exasperate those of the same nation ah'' :au, who 
the next year landed in England with a ^ „ i,„ 
powerftil army to revengo it, and commit- 
ted outrages even beyond the usual "^enor of the Dan- 
ish cruelty. There was in England no money lefi, to 
purchase a peace, nor courage to wage a successful 
war; and the King of Denmark, Sweyn, a rirince of 
capacity, at the head of a large body of brave and 
enterprising men, soon mastered the whole kingdom, 
except London. Ethelred, abandoned by fortune and 
his subjects, was forced to fly into Normandy. 

As tlfiere was no good order in the English aflFairs, 
though continually alarmed, they were always sur- 
prised ; they were only roused to aims by the cru- 
elty of the enemy, and they were only formed into 
a body by being driven from their homes: so that 
they never made a resistance until they ■'""raed to 
be entirely conquered. This may serve to account 
for the frequent sudden reductions of the island, and 
the frequent renewals of their fortune when it seemed 
the most desperate. Sweyn, in the midst of his victo- 
ries, dies, and, though succeeded by his son Canute, 
who inherited his father's resolution, their affairs 
were thrown into some disorder by this accident. 
The English were encouraged by it. Ethelred was 
recalled, and the Danes retired out of the kingdom ; 
but it was only to return the next year with a great- 
er and better appointed force. Nothing seemed able 
to oppose them. The king dies. A great part of 
the land was surrendered, without resistance, to Car 
nute. Edmund, the eldest son of Ethelred, supported, 


A. o. lOia. 


however, ♦he declining hopes of the English 
..»..«-. for some tinae; in three months he fought 
three victorious battles; he attempted a fourth, but 
lost it by the base desertion of Edric, the principal 
author of all these troubles. It is common with the 
conquered side to attribute all their misfortunes to 
the treachery of their own party. They choose to 
bo thought subdued by the treachery of their fnends 
rather than the superior bravery of their enemies. 
All the old historians talk in this strain ; and it must 
be acknowledged that all adherents to a declining 
party have many temptations to infidelity. 

Edmund, defeated, but not discouraged, retreated 
to the Severn, where he recruited his forces. Canute 
followed at his heels. And now the two armies were 
drawn up which were to decide the fate of England, 
when it was proposed to determine the war by a 
single combat between the two kings. Neither was 
unwilling; the Isle of Alney in the Severn was chos- 
en for the lists. Edmund had the advantage by the 
greatness of his strength, Canute by his address ; for 
when Edmund had so far prevaUed as to disarm him, 
he proposed a pariey, in which he persuaded Edmund 
to a peace, and to a division of the kingdom. Their 
armies accepted the agreement, and both kings de- 
parted in a seeming friendship. But Edmund died 
soon after, with a probable suspicion of being mur- 
dered by the instruments of his associate in the 

empire. , , , ^, 

Canute, on this event, assembled the 

states of the kingdom, by whom he was ac- 
knowledged King of all England. He was 
a prince truly gi-eat ; for, having acquired the king- 
dom by his valor, he maintained and improved it 

The Danish 






by his justice and clemency. Choosing rather to 
rule by the inclination of his subjects than the 
right of conquest, ho dismissed his Danish anny, 
and committed his safety to the laws. He reestab- 
lished the order and tranquillity which so long a 
series of bloody wars had banished. He revived 
the ancient statutes of the Saxon princes, and gov- 
eiiied through his whole reign with such steadiness 
and moderation that the English were much happier 
under this foreign prince than they had been under 
their natural kings. Canute, though the beginning 
of his life was stained with those marks of violence 
and injustice which attend conquest, was remark- 
able in his latter end for his piety. According to the 
mode of that time, he made a pilgrimage to Rome, 
with a view to expiate the crimes which paved his 
way to the throne ; but he made a good use of this 
peregrination, and returned full of the observations 
he had made in the country through which he 
passed, which he turned to the benefit of his ex- 
tensive dominions. They comprehended England, 
Denmark, Norway, and many of the countries which 
lie upon the Baltic. Those he left, established in 
peace and security, to his children. The fate of his 
Northern possessions is not of this place. England 
fell to his son Harold, though not without HaroM i., 
much competition in favor of the sons of *"-^"^'- 
Edmund Ironside, while some contended for the 
right of the sons of Ethelred, Alfred and Edward. 
Harold inherited none of the virtues of Canute ; 
ho banished his mother Emma, murdered his lialf- 
brother Alfred, and died without issue after a short 
reign, full of violence, weakness, and cru- n«rdics- 
elty. His brother Hardicanute, who sue- * d-'iow- 






4 ' 





ceeded him, resembled him in his character; ho 
committed new cruelties and injustices in revenging 
those which his brother had committed, and lie died 
after a yet shorter reign. The Danish power, es- 
tablished with so much blood, expired of itself; and 
Th« luoa Edward, the only surviving son of Ethelred, 
■tared. then an exile in Normandy, was called to 
the throne by the unanimous voice of the kingdom. 
Edwini um This prince was educated in a monastery, 
A. D. iMi where he learned piety, continence, and hu- 
mility, but nothing of the art of government. He 
was iimocent and artless, but his views were narrow, 
and his genius contemptible. The character of such 
a prince is not, therefore, what influences the govern- 
ment, any further than as it puts it in the hands of 
others. When he came to the throne, Godw'n, Earl 
of Kent, was the most popular man in England ; he 
possessed a very great estate, an enterprising dispo- 
sition, and an eloquence beyond the age he lived in ; 
he was arrogant, imperious, assuming, and of a con- 
science which never put itself in the way of his in- 
terest. He had a considerable share in restoring 
Edward to the throne of his ancestors ; and by tills 
merit, joined to his popularity, he for some time di- 
rected everything according to his pleasure. He in- 
tended to fortify his interest by giving in marriage to 
the king his daughter, a lady of great beauty, great 
virtue, and an education beyond her sex. Godwin 
had, however, powerful rivals in the king's favor. 
This monarch, who possessed many of the private 
virtues, had a grateful remembrance of his favora- 
ble reception in Normandy ; he caressed the people 
of that country, and promoted several to the first 
places, ecclesiastical and civil, in his kingdom. This 






begot an uneasiness in all the English; but Earl 
Godwin was particularly offended. The Normans, 
on the other hand, accused Godwin of a design on 
the crown, the justice of which imputation the whole 
tenor of his conduct evinced sufficiently. But as his 
cabals began to break into action before they were in 
perfect ripeness for it, the Norman party prevailed, 
and Godwin was banished. This man was not only 
very popular at home by his generosity and address, 
but he found means to engage even foreigners in 
his interests. Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, gave him 
a very kind receotion. By his assistance Godwin 
fitted out a fleet, hired a competent force, sailed 
to England, and having near Sandwich deceived 
the king's navy, he presented himself at London 
before he -as expected. The king made ready as 
great a force as the time would admit to oppose him. 
The galleys of Edward and Godwin met on the 
Thames; but such was the general favor to God- 
win, such the popularity of his cause, that the king's 
men threw down their arms, and refused to fight 
against their countrymen in favor of strangers. Ed- 
ward was obliged to treat with his own subjects, and 
in consequence of this treaty to dismiss the Nor- 
mans, whom he believed to bo the best attached to his 
interests. Godwin used the power to which he was 
restored to gratify his personal revenge 13 no 

mercy to his enemies. Some of his t - .i«ved 
in the most tyrannical manner. The lords 
of the kingdom envied and hated a greatness which 
annihilated the royal authority, eclipsed them, and 
oppressed the people; but Godwin's death ^ „ ^^^ 
soon after quieted for a while their mur- 
murs. The king, who had the least share in the 









troniactions of his own reign, and who was of a 
temper not to perceive his own insignificance, be- 
gun in his old age to think of a successor. Ho had 
no cbildrc* : for some weak reasons of religion or 
personal dislike, he had never cohabited with his 
wife. He sent for his nephew Edward, the son of 
Ednjund Ironside, out of Hungary, wliore ho had 
taken refuge ; but he died soon after he came to 
England, leaving a son called Edgar Atheling. The 
king himself, irresolute in so momentous an 
affair, died without making any settlement. 
His reign was properly that of his great men, or 
rather of their factions. All of it that was his own 
was good. He was careful of the privileges of his 
subjects, and took care to have a body of the Suxon 
laws, very favorable to them, digested and enforced. 
He remitted the heavy imposition called Dauegelt, 
amounting to 40,000/. a year, which had been con- 
stantly collected after the occasion had ceased ; he 
even repaid to his subjects what he found in the 
treasury at his accession. In short, there is little 
in his life that can call his title to sanctity in ques- 
tion, though he can never be reckoned among the 
great kings. 




Though Edgar Atheling had the best ti- 
tle to the succession, yet Harold, the son of 
Earl Godwin, on account of the credit of his father, 

k. D. lOM 



tod his owu great qualities, which supported aud 
extouded the iuterest of his family, was by the geu- 
eral voice sot upoo the tliroue. The right of Edgar, 
▼ouiig, and discovering no great capacity, gave him 
little disturbance in comparison of the violence of his 
own brother Tosti, whom for his infamous oppression 
he had found himself obliged to banish, "'his man, 
who was a tyrant at homo and a traitor abroad, in- 
sulted the maritime parts with a piratical fleet, wliilst 
he incited all the neighboring princes to fall upon his 
coiuitry. Harold Harfager, King of Norway, after 
the conquest of the Orkneys, with a powerful navy 
hung over the coasts of England. But nothing tro ab- 
led Harold so much as the pretensions and the for- 
midable preparation of William, Duke of Normandy, 
one of the most able, ambitious, aud enterprising men 
of that age. We have mentioned the partiality of 
King Edward to the Normans, and the hatred he 
bore to Godwin and his family. The Duke of Nor- 
mandy, to whom Edward had personal obligations, 
had taken a tour into England, and neglected no 
means to improve these dispositions to his own ad- 
vantage. It is said that he tiien receivod the fullest 
assurances of being appointed to the succession, and 
that Harold himself had been sent soon after into 
Normandy to settle wiiatever related to it. Tliis is 
an obscure transaction, and would, if it could be 
cleared up, convey but little instruction. So that 
whether we believe or not that William hud en- 
gaged Harold by a solemn oath to secure him the 
kingdom, we know that he afterwards set up a will 
of King Edward in his favor, which, however, he 
never produced, and probably never had to produce. 
In these delicate 'ircumstances Harold was not want- 







ing to himself. By the most equitable laws and the 
most popular behavior he sought to secure the affec- 
tions of his subjects ; and he succeeded 6o well, that, 
when he marched against the King of Norway, who 
had invaded his kingdom and taken York, without dif- 
ficulty he raised a numerous army of gallant men, 
zealous for his cause and their country. He obtained 
a signal and decisive victory over the Norwegians. 
The King Harfager, and the traitor Tosti, who had 
joined him, were slain in the battle, and the Norwe- 
gians were forced to evacuate the country. Harold 
had, however, but little time to enjoy the fruits of his 

Scarce had the Norwegians departed, when Wil- 
liam, Duke of Normandy, landed in the southern part 
of the kingdom with an army of sixty thousand chos- 
en men, and struck a general terror through all tho 
natici-, which was well acquainted with the character 
of the commander and the courage and discipline of 
his troops. 

The Normans were the posterity of those Danes 
who had so long and so cruelly harassed the British 
islands and the shore of the adjoining continent. In 
the days of King Alfred, a body of these adventur- 
ers, under their leader, RoUo, made an attempt upon 
England; but so well did they find every spot de- 
fended by the vigilance and bravery of that great 
monarch that they were compelled to retire. Beat- 
en from these shores, the stream of their impetuosity 
bore towards the northern parts of France, whicli had 
'leen reduced to the most deplorable condition by 
iheir former ravages. Charles the Simple then sat 
on the throne of that kingdom ; unable to resist this 
torrent of barbarians, he was obliged to yield to it ; 




he agreed to give up to RoUo the large aud fertile 
province of Neustria, to hold of him as his feudatory. 
This province, from the new inhabitants, was called 
Normandy. Five princes succeeded RoUo, who main- 
tained with great bravery and cultivated with equal 
wisdom his conquests. Tlie ancient ferocity of this 
people was a little softened by their settlement ; but 
the bravery which had made the Danes so fwinjidoWp -, 
was not extinguished in the Normans, nor the spirit 
of enterprise. Not long before this period; a private 
gentleman of Normandy, by his personal bravery, had 
acquired the kingdom of Naples. Several others fol- 
lowed his fortunes, who added Sicily to it. From 
one end of Europe to the otlier the Norman name 
was known, respected, and feared. Robert, the sixth 
Duke of Normandy, to expiate some crime which lay 
heavy upon his conscience, resolved, according to the 
ideas of that time, upon a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 
It was in vain that his nobility, whom he had assem- 
bled to notify this resolution to them, represented to 
him the miserable state to which his t >untry would 
be reduced, abandoned by its prince, and uncertain 
of a legal successor. The Duke was not to be moved 
from his resolution, which appeared but the more 
meritorious from the difficulties which attended it. 
He presented to the states William, then an infant, 
born of an obscure woman, whom, notwithstanding, 
he doubted not to be his son ; him he appointed to 
succeed ; him he recommended to their virtue and 
loyalty; and then, solemnly resigning the govern- 
ment in his favor, he departed on the pilgrimage, 
from whence he never returned. The states, hesi- 
tating some time between the mischiefs that attend 
the allowing an illegitimate succession and those 

17 I 



m ; 


( 1 

." I 


ii ' 

which might arise from admitting foreign pretensions, 
thuugbt the former the ! jast prejudicial, and accord- 
ingly swore allegiance to William. But this oath was 
not sufficient to establish a right so doubtful. The 
Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, as well as several 
Norman noblemen, had specious titles. The endeav- 
ors of all these disquieted the reign of the young 
prince with perpetual troubles. In these troubles he 
was formed early in life to vigilance, activity, secrecy, 
and a conquest over all those passions, whether bad 
or good, which obstruct the way to greatness. He 
had to contend with all the neighboring princes, with 
the seditions of a turbulent and unfaithful nobility, 
and the treacherous protection of his feuda^ lord, the 
King of France. All of these in their turns, some- 
times all of these together, distressed him. But with 
the most unparalleled good fortune and conduct ho 
overcame all opposition, and triumphed over every 
enemy, raising his power and reputation above that 
of all his ancestors, as much as he was exalted by his 
bravery above the princes of his own time. 

Such was the prince who, on a pretended claim 
from the will of King Edward, supported by the com- 
mon and popular pretence of punishing offenders and 
redressing grievances, landed at Pevensey in Sussex, 
to contest the crown with Harold. Harold had no 
sooner advice of his landing than he advanced to 
meet him with all possible diligence; but there did 
not appear in his army, upon this occasion, the same 
unanimity and satisfaction which animated it on its 
march against the Norwegians. An ill-timed econo- 
my in Harold, which made him refuse to his soldiers 
the plunder of the Norwegian camp, had created a 
general discontent. Several deserted; and the sol- 



diers who remained followed heavily a leader under 
whor; there was no hope of plunder, the greatest in- 
citement of the soldiery. Notwithstanding this ill 
disposition, Harold still urged forward, and by forced 
marches advanced within seven miles of the enemy. 
The Norman, on his landing, is said to have sent 
away his ships, that his army might have no way 
of safety but in conquest; yet had he fortified his 
camp, and taken every prudent precaution, that so 
considerable an enterprise should not be reduced to 
a single effort of despair. "When the armies, charged 
with the decision of so mighty a contest, had ap- 
proached each other, Harold paused awhile. A 
great deal depended on his conduct at this critioil 
time. The most experienced in the council of war, 
who knew the condition of their troops, were of opin- 
ion that the engagement ought to be deferred, — tliat 
the country ought to be wasted, — that, as the winter 
approached, the Normans would in all probability be 
obliged to retire of themselves, — that, if this should 
not happen, the Norman army was without resources, 
whilst the English would be every day considerably 
augmented, and might attack their enemy at a iimo 
and manner which might make their success certain. 
To all these reasons nothing was opposed but a false 
point of honor and a mistaken courage in Harold, 
who urged his fate, and resolved on an engagement. 
The Norman, as soon as he perceived that the Eng- 
lish were determined on a battle, left his camp to 
post himself in an advantageous situation, in which 
ins whole army remained the night which preceded 
the action. 

!» ". night was spent in a manner which prognosti- 
cated the event of the following day. On the part of 


ilk 11 






the Normans it was spent in prayer, and in a cool 
and steady preparstion for the engagement ; on the 
side of the English, in not and a vain confidence 
that neglected all the necessary preparations. The 
two armies met in the morning; from seven to five 
the battle was fought with equal vigor, until at last 
the Norman army pretending to break in confusion, 
a stratagem to which they had been regularly formed, 
the English, elated with success, suffered that firm 
order in which their security consisted to dissipate, 
which when William observed, he gave the signal to 
his men to regain their former disposition, and fall 
upon the English, broken and dispersed. Harold in 
this emergency did everything which became hira, 
everything possible to collect his troops and to re- 
new the engagement ; but whilst he flew from place 
to place, and in all places restored the battle, an 
arrow pierced his brain, and he died a king, in a 
manner worthy of a warrior. The English imme- 
diately fled ; the rout was total, and the slaughter 

The consuernation which this defeat and the death 
of Harold produced over the kingdom was more fatal 
than the defeat itself. If "William had marched di- 
rectly to London, all contest had probably been at an 
end ; but ho judged it more prudent to secure the 
sea-coast, to make way for reinforcements, distrusting 
his fortune in his success more than he had done in 
his first attempts. Ee marched to Dover, whore the 
effect of his victory was such that the strong castle 
there surrendered without resistance. Had this for- 
tress made any tolerable defence, the English would 
have had leisure to rouse from their consternation, 
and plan some rational method for continuing the 



■war; but now the conqueror vas on full march 
to London, whilst the English were debating con- 
cerning the measures they should take, and doubt- 
ful in what manner they should fill the vacant 
throne. However, in this emergency it was neces- 
sary to take some resolution. The party of Edgar 
Atheling prevailed, and he was owned king by the 
city of London, which even at this time was exceed- 
ingly powerful, and by the greatest part of the nobil- 
ity then present. But his reign was of a short dura- 
tion. "William advanced by hasty marches, and, as 
he approached, the perplexity of the English redoub- 
led: they had done nothing for tlie defence of the 
city ; they had no reliance on their new king ; they 
suspected one another; there was no authority, no 
order, no counsel ; a confused and ill-sort 1 assembly 
of unwarlike people, of priests, burghf 
confounded with them in the general 
down by the consternation of the late 
trembling under the bolts of the Papal excommu- 
nication, were unable to plan any method of de- 
fence: insomuch that, when he had passed the 
Thames and drew near to London, the clergy, the 
citizens, and the greater part of the nobles, wlio had 
so lately set the crown on the head of Edgar, went 
out to meet him ; they submitted to him, and hav- 
ing brought him in triumph to Wes-tminster, he 
was th Temnly crowned King of England. The 

whole 1 followed t> ; example of London ; and 

one bati o ^ave England .u the Normans, which had 
cost the Romans, the Saxons, and Danes so much 
time and blood to acquire. 

At first view it is very difficult to conceive how 
this could have happened to a powerful nation, in 

d nobles 
.cfeat, and 

' 'n 










ii- I I ' 


which it does not appear that the conqueror had one 
partisan. It stands a single event in history, unless, 
perhaps, we may compare it with the reduction of 
Ireland, some time after, by Henry the Second. An 
attentive consideration of the state of the kingdom at 
tliat critical time may, perhaps, in some measure, lay 
open to us the cause of this extraordinary revolution. 
The nobility of England, in which its strength con- 
sisted, was much decayed. Wars and confiscations, 
but above all the custom of gavelkind, had reduced 
that body very low. At the same time some few 
families had been raised to a degree of power un- 
known in the ancient Saxon times, and dangerous 
in all. Large possessions, and a larger authority, 
were annexed to the offices of the Saxon magis- 
trates, whom they called Aldermen. This authority, 
in their long and bloody wars with the Danes, it was 
found necessary to increase, and often to increase 
beyond the ancient limits. Aldermen were created 
for life ; they were then frequently made hereditary ; 
some were vested with a power over others ; and at 
this period we begin to hoar of dukes who governed 
over several shires, and had many aldermen subject 
to them. Tliese officers found means to turn the 
royal bounty into an instrument of becoming inde- 
pendent of its authority. Too great to obey, and too 
little to protect, they were a dead weight upon the 
country. They began to cast an eye on the crown, 
and distracted the nation by cabals to compass their 
designs. At the same time they nourished the most 
terrible feuds amongst themselves. The feeble gov- 
ernment of Edward establislied these abuses. He 
could find no method of humbling one subject 
grown too great, but by aggrandizing lu the same 




excessive degree some others. Tims, he endeav- 
ored to balance the power of Earl Godwin by exalt- 
ing Leofric, Duke of Mercia, and Siward, Duke of 
Northumberland, to an extravagant greatness. The 
consequence was this: he did not humble Godwin, 
but raised him potent rivals. When, therefore, this 
prince died, the lawful successor to the crown, who 
had nothing but right in his favor, was totally 
eclipsed by the splendor of the great men who had 
adorned themselves with the spoils of royalty. The 
throne was now the prize of faction ; and Harold, the 
son of Godwin, having the strongest faction, carried 
it. By this success the opposite parties were in- 
flamed with a new occasion of rancor and animosity, 
and an incurable discontent was raised in the minds 
of Edwin and Morcar, the sons of Duke Leofric, who 
inherited their father's power and popularity : but 
this animosity operated nothing in favor of the legiti- 
mate heir, thougli it weakened the hands of the gov- 
erning prince. 

The death of Harold was far from putting an end 
to these evils ; i ^ rather unfolded more at large the 
fatal consequences of the ill measures which had 
been pursued. Edwin and Morcar set on foot once 
more their practices to obtain the crown ; and when 
they found themselves baffled, they retired in discon- 
tent from the councils of tlie nation, withdrawing 
thereby a very large part of its strength and author- 
ity. The council of the nation, which was formed of 
the clashing factions of a few great men, (for the 
rest were nothing,) divided, disheartened, weakened, 
without head, without direction, dismayed by a ter- 
rible defeat, submitted, because they saw no other 
course, to a conqueror whose valor they had experi- 

h v 







1 1 



enced, and who had hitherto behaved with great 
appearances of equity and moderation. As for the 
grandees, they were contented rather to submit to 
this foreign prince than to those whom they regarded 
as their equals and enemies. 

With these causes other strong ones concurred. 
For near two centuries the continual and bloody 
wars with the Danes had exhausted the nation ; the 
peace, which for a long time they were obliged to buy 
dearly, exhausted it yet more ; and it had not suffi- 
cient leisure nor sufficient means of acquiring wealth 
to yield at this time any extraordinary resources. 
The new people, which after so long a utruggle liad 
mixed with the English, had not yet so thoroughly 
incorporated with the ancient inhabitants that a per- 
fect union might be expected between them, or that 
any strong, uniform, national effort might have re- 
sulted from it. Besides, the people of England were 
the most backward in Europe in all improvements, 
whether in military or in civil life. Their towns 
were meanly built, and more meanly fortified ; there 
was scarcely anything that deserved the name of a 
strong place in the kingdom; there was no fortress 
which, by retarding the progress of a conqueror, 
might give the people an opportunity of recalling 
their spirits and collecting their strength. To these 
we may add, that the Pope's approbation of Wil- 
liam's pretensions gave them great weight, especially 
amongst the clergy, and that this disposed and recon- 
ciled to submission a people whom the circumstances 
we have mentioned Is ad before driven to it. 






Before we begin to consider the laws and constitu- 
tions of the Saxons, let us take a view of the state of 
the country from whence they are derived, as it is 
portrayed in ancient writers. This view will be the 
best comment on their institutions. Let us represent 
to ourselves a people without learning, without arts, 
without industry, :-jlely pleased and occupied with 
war, negl'^cting agriculture, abhorring cities, and 
seeking their livelihood only from pasturage and 
hunting through a boundless range of morasses and 
forests. Such a people must necessarily be united to 
each other by very feeble bonds ; their ideas of gov- 
ernment will necessarily be imperfect, their freedom 
and their love of freedom great. From these disposi- 
tions it must happen, of course, that the intention of 
investing one person or a few with the whole powers 
of government, and the notion of deputed authority 
or representation, are ideas that never could have en- 
tered their imaginations. When, therefore, amongst 
such a people any resolution of consequence was to 
be taken, there was no way of effecting it but by 
bringing together the whole body of the nation, that 
every individual might consent to the law, and each 
reciprocally bind the other to the observation of it. 
This polity, if so it may be called, subsists still in 
all its simplicity in Poland. 

But as in such a society as we have mentioned 
the people cannot be classed according to any politi- 
cal regulations, great talents have a more ample 

lere in which to exert themselves than in a close 










' >i) 

V;JT |. 

and better formed society. These talents must there- 
fore have attracted a great share of the public vener- 
ation, and drawn a numerous train after the person 
distinguished by them, of those who sought his pro- 
tection, or feared his power, or admired his qualifica- 
tions, or wished to form themselves after his example, 
or, in fine, of whoever desired to partake of his im- 
portance by being mentioned along witli him. Tliese 
the ancient Gauls, who nearly resembled the Ger- 
mans in their customs, called Ambacti ; the Romans 
called them Comites. Over these their chief had a 
considerable power, and the more considerable be- 
cause it depended upon influence rather than insti- 
tution: influence among so free a people being the 
principal source of power. But this authority, great 
as it was, never could by its very nature be stretched 
to despotism ; because any despotic act would have 
shocked the only principle by which that authority 
was supported, the general good opinion. On the 
other hand, it could not have been bounded by any 
positive laws, because laws can hardly subsist amongst 
a people who have not the use of letters. It was a 
species of arbitrary power, softened by the popularity 
from whence it arose. It came fiom popular opinion, 
and by popular opinion it was corrected. 

If people so barbarous as the Germans have no 
laws, they have yet customs that serve in their room ; 
and these customs operate amongst them better than 
laws, because they become a sort of Nature both to 
the governors and ^'-.o governed. This circumstance 
in some measure removed all fear of the abuse of 
authority, and induced the Germans to permit their 
chiefs* to decide upon matters of lesser moment, 

• They had no other nobility ; yet several families amongst them 
were considered as noble. 



thei" private differences, — for so Tacitus explains 
the minoret ret. These chiefs were a sort of Judges, 
but not legislators; nor do they appear to have had 
a share in the superior branches of the executiTO 
part of government, — the business of peace and war, 
and everything of a public nature, being determined, 
as we have before remarked, by the whole body of 
the people, according to a maxim general among the 
Germans, that what concerned all ought to bo han- 
dled by all. Thus were delineated the faint and in- 
correct outlines of our Constitution, which has since 
been so nobly fashioned and so highly finished. This 
fine system, says Montesquieu, was invented in the 
woods ; but whilst it remained in the woods, and for 
a long time after, it was far from being a fine one, — 
no more, indeed, tlian a very imperfect attempt at 
government, a system for a rude and barbarous peo- 
ple, calculated to maintain them in their barbarity. 

The ancient state of the Germans was military: 
so that the orders into which they were distributed, 
their .ubordination, their courts, and every part of 
their government, must be deduced from an atten- 
tion to a military principle. 

The ancient German people, as all the other North 
em tribes, consisted of freemen and slaves : the free- 
men professed arms, the slaves cultivated the ground. 
But men were not allowed to profoss arms at tlieir 
own will, nor until they were admitted to that dig- 
nit" by an «^stablished order, which at a certain age 
separated e boys from men. For when a young 
man approached to virility,* he was not yet admitted 
as a member of the state, which was quite military, 

* Anna samere non ante caiquam moris, qukm civitas inftcta- 
rum probaverit. -' Tacitus de Mor. Germ. 13. 

hM>' !] 




ABRroomMT or enolish bistort. 

until he had been invested with a ipcar in the public 
ttsembly of his tribe; and then he was adjudged 
proper to carry arms, and also to assist in the pul>- 
lio deliberationi, which were always hold annod.* 
This spear he generally received from the hand of 
some old and respected chief, under whom he com- 
monly entered himself, and was admitted among his 
followers.! No man could stand out as an independ- 
ent individual, but must have enlisted in one of these 
military fraternities; and as soon as he had so en- 
listed, imm jdiately he became bound to his load*. • n 
the strictest dependence, which was confirmed by an 
oath, I and to his brethren in a common vow for their 
mutual support in all dangers, and for the advance- 
ment and the honor of their common chief. This 
'"flf was styled Senior, Lord, and the like terms, 
marked out a superiority in age and merit; 
"ers were called Ambacti, Comites, Leudes, 
\c. ad other terms, marking submission and 

dependence. This was the very first origin of civil, 
or rather, military government, amongst the ancient 
people of Europe ; and it arose from the connection 
that necessarily was created between the person who 
gave the arms, or knighted the young man, and hira 
that received them ; which implied that they were to 
be occupied in his service who originally gave them. 
These principles it is necessary strictly to attend to, 
because they will serve much to explain the whole 

* Nihil aatem neqne pablica neque priTata lei nisi armati agnnt 
— Tacitus de Mor. Germ. 13. 

t Ccteri robnstioribas ac jam pridem probatis aggregantar. — Id. 

t Ilium defendere, tueri, sua qnoqne fortia facta gloria ejus as- 
signare, priecipuum sacramentum est. — Id. 14. 



course both of government ani* <a\ property, wher- 
ever the German nations obtained a settlement: the 
whole of their government depending for the most 
part upon two principles in our nature, — ambition, 
that makes one man desirous, at any hazard or ex- 
pense, of taking the lead amongst others, — and ad- 
miration, which makes others equally desirous of fol- 
lowing him, from the mere pleasure of admiration, 
and a sort of secondary ambition, one of the most 
universal passions among men. These two princi- 
ples, strong, both of them, in our nature, create a 
voluntary iucquallty and dep»nuciico. But amongst 
equals in condition there could be no such bond, and 
this was supplied by confederacy ; and as the first of 
these principles created the senior and the knight, 
the second produced the conjurati fratrea, which, 
sometimes as a more extensive, sometimes as a strict- 
er bond, are perpetually mentioned in the old laws 
and histories. 

The rclntion between the lord and the vassal pro- 
duced another effect, — that the leader was obliged 
to find sustenance for his followers, and to n^aiutiiin 
them at his table, or give them some equivalent in 
order to their mainteiuince. It is plain from these 
principles, that this service on one hand, and this ob- 
ligation to support on the other, could not have origi- 
nally been hereditary, but must have been entirely 
in the free choice of the parties. 

But it is impossible that such a polity could long 
have subsisted by election alone. For, in the first 
place, that natural love wliich every man has to his 
own kindred would make the chief willing to perpetr 
uate the power and dignity he acquired in his own 
blood, — and for ♦hat purpose, even during his own 

. ! I 



life, would raise his son, if grown up, or his collater- 
als, to such a rank as they sliould find it only neces- 
sary to continue their possession upon his death. On 
the other hand, if a follower was cut off in war, or 
fell by natural course, leaving his offspring destitute, 
the lord could not so far forget the services of his 
vassal as not to continue his allowance to his chil- 
dren ; and these again growing up, from reason and 
gratitude, could only take their kniglithood at his 
hands from whom they had received their educa- 
tion ; and thus, as it could seldom happen but that 
the bond, either on the sid% of the lord or depend- 
ant, was perpetuated, some families must have been 
distinguished by a long continuance of this relation, 
and have been therefore looked upon in an honora- 
ble light, from that only circumstance from whence 
honor was derived in the Northern world. Thus 
nobility was seen in Germany; and in the earliest 
Anglo-Saxon times some families were distinguished 
by the title of Ethelings, or of noble descent. But 
this nobility of birth was rather a qualification for 
the dignities of the state than an actual designation 
to them. The Saxon ranks are chiefly designed to 
ascertain the quantity of the composition for per- 
sonal injuries against them. 

But though this hereditary relation was created 
very early, it must not be mistaken for such a reg- 
ular inheritance as we see at this day : it was aa 
inheritance only according to the principles from 
whence it was derived ; by them it was modified. 
It was originally a military connection ; and if a 
father left his son under a military age, so as that 
he could neither lead nor judge his people, nor 
qualify the young men who came up under him to 



take arms, — in order to continue the cliental bond, 
and not to break up an old and strong confederacy, 
and thereby disperse the tribe, who should be pitched 
upon to head the whole, but tin; worthiest of blood 
of the deceased leader, he that ranked next to him 
in his life ? * And this is Tanistry, which is a suc- 
cession made up of inheritance and election, a suc- 
cession in which blood is uiviolably regarded, so far 
as it was consi'tent with military purposes. It was 
thus that our kings succeeded to the throne through- 
out the whole time of the Anglo-Saxon empire. The 
first kings of the Franks succeeded in the same man- 
ner, and without all doubt the succession of all the 
inferior chieftauis was regulated by a similar law. 
Very frequent examples occur in the Saxon times, 
where the son of tlie deceased king, if under age, 
was entirely passed over, and his uncle, or some 
remoter relation, raised to the crown; but there 
is not a suigle instance where the election has car- 
ried it out of the blood. So that, in truth, the con- 
troversy, which has been managed with such heat, 
whether in the Saxon times the crown was heredi- 
tary or elective, must be determined in some degree 
favorably for the litigants on either side ; for it was 
certainly both hereditary and elective within the 
bounds which we have mentioned. This order pre- 
vailed in Ireland, where the Northern customs were 
retained some hundreds of years after the rest of 
Europe had in a great measure receded from them. 
Tanistry continued in force there until the beginning 
of the last century. And we have greatly to regret 
the narrow notions of our lawyers, who abolished the 

• Deputed authority, guardianship, &c., not known to the North- 
em nations ; they gained this idea by intercourse with the Romani. 

H ♦ 

c V ' ' 




authority of the Brehon law, and at the same time 
kept no monuments of it, — which if they had done, 
there is no doubt but many things of great value 
towards determining many questions relative to the 
laws, antiquities, and manners of tliis and other coun- 
tries had been preserved. But it is clear, though it 
has not been, I t'.'nk, observed, that the ascending 
collateral branch ^'as much regarded amongst the 
ancient German? -d even preferred to that of the 
immediate possessor , as being, in case of an accident 
arriving to the chief, the presumptive heir, and him 
on whom the hope of the family was fixed : and this is 
upon the principles of Tanistry. And the rule seems 
to have taken such deep root as to have much influ- 
enced a considerable article of our feudal law: for, 
what is very singular, and, I take it, otherwise unac- 
countable, a collateral warranty bound, even without 
any descending assets, where the lineal did not, un- 
less something descended ; and this subsisted invari- 
ably in the law until this century. 

Thus we have seen the foundation of the Northern 
government and the orders of their people, which 
consisted of dependence and confederacy: that the 
principal end of both was military ; that protection 
and maintenance were due on the part of the chief, 
obedience on that of the follower ; that the followers 
should be bound to each other as well as to the chief; 
that this headship was not at first hereditary, but that 
it continued in the blood by an order of its own, 
called Tanistry. 

All tliese unconnected and independent parts wero 
only linked together by a common council : and here 
religion interposed. Their priests, the Druids, having 
a connection throughout each state, united it. Tliey 





called the assembly of the people: and here their 
general resolutions were taken ; and the whole might 
rather be called a general confederacy than a govern- 
ment. In no other bonds, I conceive, were they unit- 
ed before they quitted Germany. In this ancient state 
we know them from Tacitus. Then follows an im- 
mense gap, in which undoubtedly some changes were 
made by time ; and we hear little more of them until 
we find them Christians, and makers of written laws. 
In this interval -'' • ime the origin of kings may be 
traced out. "Whe 'axons left their own country 

in search of new h. jns, it must be supposed that 

they followed their leaders, whom they so much ven- 
erated at home ; but as the wars whicli made way for 
their establishment continued for a long time, mili- 
tary obedience made them familiar with a stricter 
authority. A subordination, too, became necessary 
among the leaders of each band of adventurers : and 
being habituated to yield an obedience to a single 
person in the field, the lustre of his command and 
the utility of the institution easily prevailed upon 
them to suffer him to form the band of their union 
in time of peace, under the name of King. But the 
leader neither knew the extent of the power he re- 
ceived, nor the people of that which they bestowed. 
Equally unresolved were they about the method of 
perpetuating it, — sometimes filling the vacant throne 
by election, without regard to, but more frequently 
regarding, the blood of the deceased prince ; but it 
was late before they fell i.. o any regular plan of suc- 
cession, if ever the Anglo-Saxons attained it. Thus 
their polity was formed slowly ; the prospect clears up 
by little and little ; and this species of an irregular 
republic wo see turned into a monarchy as irregular. 




It is no wonder that tho advocates for the several 
parties among us find something to favor tlwir sev- 
eral notions in the Saxon government, which was 
never supported by any fixed or uniform principle. 
To comprehend tho other parts of the government 
of our ancestors, we must take notice of the orders 
into which they were classed. As well as we can 
judge in so obscure a matter, they were divided into 
nobles or gentlemen, freeholders, freemen that were 
not freeholders, and slaves. Of these last we have 
little to say, as they were nothing in the state. The 
nobles were called Thanes, or servants. It must bo 
remembered thr.t the German chiefs were raised to 
that honorable rank by those qualifications which 
drew after them a numerous train of followers and 
dependants.* If it was honorable to be followed by 
a numerous train, so it was honorable in a secondary 
degree to be a follower of a man of consideration ; 
and this honor was the greater in proportion to the 
quality of the chief, and to the nearness of the at- 
tendance on his persrn. When a monarchy was 
formed, the splendor of the crown naturally drowned 
all the inferior honors ; and the attendants on tiie 
person of the king were considered as the first in 
rank, and derived their dignity from their service. 
Yet as the Saxon government had still a large mix- 
ture of the popular, it was likewise requisite, in order 
to raise a man to the first rank of thanes, that he 
should have a suitable attendance and sway amongst 
the people. To support him in both of these, it was 
necessary that he should have a competent estate. 
Therefore in this service of the king, this attendance 
on himself, and this estate to support both, the dig- 

• Jud. Civ. Lund, apud Wilk. post p. 68. 



nity of a thane consisted. I understand here a thane 
of the first order. 

Every thane, in the distribution of his lands, had 
two objects in Tlew : the support of his family, and 
the maintenance of his dignity. He therefore re- 
tained in his own hands a parcel of land near uis 
house, which in the Saxon times was called inland, 
and afterwards his demesne, which served to keep 
up his hospitality: and this land was cultivated ei- 
ther by slaves, or by the poorer sort of people, who 
held lands of him by the performance of this ser- 
vice. The other portion of his estate he cither gave 
for life or lives to his followers, men of a liberal 
condition, who served the greater thane, as he him- 
self served the king. They were called Under- 
Thanes, or, according to the language of that time, 
Theoden.* They served their lord in all public 
business; they followed him in war; and they 
sought justice in his court in all their private dif- 
ferences. These may be considered as freeholders 
of the better sort, or indeed a sort of lesser gentry : 
therefore, as they were not the absolute dependants, 
but in some measure the peers of their lord, when 
they sued in his court, they claimed the privilege 
of all the German freemen, the right of judging 
one another : the lord's ste'vard was only the regis- 
ter. This domestic court, which continued in full 
vigor for many ages, the Saxons called Hall- Haumow, 
mote, from the place in which it was held ; b»«>"- 
tlie Normans, who adopted it, named it a Court- 
Baron. This court had another department, in 
which the power of the lord was more absolute. 
From the most ancient times the German nobility 

• Spelraan of Feads, ch. 5. 







!"*! I 

considered themselres as the natural judges of those 
•who were employed in the cultivation of their lands, 
looking on husbandmen with contempt, and only as 
a parcel of the soil whicli they tilled : to these the 
Saxons commonly allotted some part of their out- 
lands to hold as tenants at will, and to perform very 
low services for them. The differences of these in- 
ferior tenants were decided in the lord's court, in 
which his steward sat as judge ; and this manner 
of tenure probably gave an origin to copyholders.* 
Their estates were at will, but their persons were 
free: nor can we suppose that villaijis, if we con- 
sider villains as synonymous to slaves, could ever 
by any natural course have risen to copyholders ; 
because the servile condition of the villain's person 
would always have prevented that stable tenure in 
the lands which the copyholders came to in very 
early times. The merely servile part of the nation 
seems never to have been known by the name of 
Villains or Ceorles, but by those of Bordars, Esnes, 
and Theowes. 

As there were large tracts throughout the country 
not subject to the jurisdiction of any thane, the in- 
habitants of which were probably some remains of 
the ancient Britons not reduced to absolute slavery, 
and such Saxons as had not attached themselves to 
the fortunes of any leading man, it was proper to 
find some method of uniting and governing these 
detached parts of the nation, which had not been 
brought into order by any private dependence. To 
answer this end, the whole kingdom was divided into 

* Faernnt etiam in conqaestn liberi homines, qui libera tennernnt 
tenementa sua per libera servitia vel per liberas ccnsnetadines. — For 
the original of copyholds, see Bracton, Lib. I. fol. 7. 





Shires, these into Hundreds, and tlie Hundreds into 
Tithings.* This division was not made, as it is gen- 
erally imagined, by King Alfred, though he naight 
have introduced better regulations concerning it ; it 
prevailed on the continent, wherever the Northern 
nations had obtained a settlement ; and it is a species 
of order extremely obvious to all who use the decimal 
notation : when for the purposes of government they 
divide a county, tens and hundreds are the first modes 
of division which occur. The Tithing, which was the 
smallest of these divisions, consisted of ten heads of 
families, free, and of some consideration. These held 
a court every fortnight, which they called Tithing 
the Folkmote, or Leet, and there became 
reciprocally bound to each other and to the public 
for their own peaceable behavior and that of their 
families and dependants. Every man in the king- 
dom, except those who belonged to the seigneurial 
courts we have mentioned, was obliged to enter him- 
self into some tithing: to this he was inseparably 
attached ; nor could he by any means quit it with 
out license from the head of the tithing ; because, 
if he was guilty of any misdemeanor, his district was 
obliged to produce him or pay his fine. In this mati- 

• Ibi debent popnU omnes et gentes nnWerssB singulis annis, scmcl 
in anno scilicet, convenire, scilicet in capite Kal. Mail, et se fide et 
Sacramento non fracto ibi in nnam et simul confcedcrare, et consoli- 
dare sicut conjurati fratres ad defendendum rcgnum contra alienige- 
nas Pt t^ntra inimicos, una cum domino sue terras et honores 
illins omni fldclitate cum eo servare, et quod illi ut (ioinino suo regi 
intra et extra regnnm universum Britanniae fideles esse volnnt. — LL. 
Ed. Conf. c. 35. — Of Heretoches and their election, vide Id. eodem. 

Prohibitum erat etiam in eadem lege, ne quis emeret vivum animal 
Tel pannum usatum sine plegiis et bonis testibus. — Of other par- 
ticulars of buying and selling, vide Leges Ed. Conf. 38. 




ner was tho whole nation, as it were, held under 
sureties : a species of regulation undoubtedly very 
wise with regard to tho preservation of peace and 
order, but equally prejudicial to all improvement in 
the muids or tho fortunes of tho people, who, fixed 
invariably to tho spot, were dei)ressed with all the 
ideas of their original littleness, and by all that envy 
wliich is sure to arise in those who see their equals 
attempting to mount over them. This rigid order 
deadened by degrees the spirit of the English, and 
narrowed their conceptions. Everything was new to 
them, and tliereforo everything was terrible; all ac- 
tivity, boldness, enterprise, and invention died away. 
There may be a danger in straining too strongly the 
bonds of government. As a life of absolute license 
tends to turn men into savages, the other extreme 
of constraint operates much in the same manner : it 
reduces them to the same ignorance, bu leaves them 
nothing of the savage spirit. These rc{;ulations helped 
to keep the people of England the most backward in 
Euroj>e ; for though the division hito shires and hun- 
dreds and tithings was common to tlicm with tlie 
neighboring nations, yet the frankpledge seems to 
be a peculiarity in the English Constitution ; and 
for good reasons they have fallen into disuse, though 
still some traces of them are to be found in our 

Ten of these tithings made an Hundred. 
Here in ordinary course they held a month- 
ly court for the centenary, when all the suitors of the 
subordinate tithiitrs attended. Here were determined 
causes concern ..g breaches of the peace, small debts, 
and such matters as rather required a speedy than a 
refined justice. 




Tliere was in tho Saxon Constitution a great sim- 
plicity. Tho higher order of courts were but the 
transcript of the lower, somewhat more extended 
in their objects and in their power ; and their pow- 
er over the inferior courts proceeded only from their 
being a collection of them all. The County c«unty 
or Shire Court was the great resort for jus- *^"""' 
tico (for the four great courts of record did not then 
exist). It served to unite all the inferior districts 
with one another, and those with the private juris- 
diction of the thanes. This court had no fixed place. 
The alderman of the shire appointed it. Hither came 
to account for their own conduct, and that of those 
beneath them, the baililfs of hundreds and tithings 
and boroughs, with heir people, — the thanes of 
either rank, with their dependants, — a vast con- 
course of the clergy of all orders: in a word, of 
all who sought or distributed justice. In this mixed 
assembly the obligations contracted in the inferior 
courts were renewed, a general oath of allegiance 
to the king was taken, and all debates between tho 
several inferior coordinate jurisdictions, as well as the 
causes of too much weight for them, finally deter- 
mined. In this court presided (for in strict signifi- 
cation he does not seem to liave been a judge) an 
officer of great consideration in those times, called 
the Ealdorman of the Shire. With him sat Eauiorman 
the bishop, to decide in whatever related to *'"' ^^^°^' 
the Church, and to mitigate the rigor of the law by 
the interposition of equity, according to the species 
of mild justice that suited the ecclesiastical charac- 
ter. It appears by the ancient Saxon laws, that the 
bishop was the chief acting person in this court. The 
reverence in wiiich the clergy were then held, the 








superior learning of the bishop, his succeeding to the 
power and jurisdiction of the Druid, all contributed 
to raise him far above the ealdorman, and to render 
it in reality hi: court. And this was probably the 
reason of the extreme lenity of the Saxon laws. The 
canons forbade the bishops to meddle in cases of 
Vdood. KiL ;st the ancient Gauls and Germans 
the Druid could alone condemn to death ; so that 
on the introduction of Christianity there was none 
who could, in ordinary course, sentence a man to 
capital punishment: necessity alone forced it in a 
few cases. 

Concerning the right of appointing the Alderman 
of the Shire there is some uncertainty. That he was 
anciently elected by his county is indisputable ; that 
an alderman of the shire was appointed by the crown 
seems equally clear from the writings of King Alfred. 
A conjecture of Spelman throws some light upon this 
affair. He conceives that there were two aldermen 
with concurrent jxirisdiction, one of whom was elect- 
ed by the people, the other appointed by the king. 
Tliis is very probable, and very correspondent to the 
nature of the Saxon Constitution, which was a spe- 
cies of democracy poised and held together by a de- 
gree of monarchical power. If the king had no officer 
to represent him in the county court, wherein all the 
ordinary business of the nation was then transacted, 
the state would have hardly differed from a pure de- 
mocracy. Besides, as the king had in every county 
large landed possessions, either in his demesne, or to 
reward and pay his officers, he would have been in a 
much worse condition than any of his subjects, if he 
had been destitute of a magistrate to take care of his 
rights and to do justice to his numerous vassals. It 



appears, as well as wo can judge in so obscure a mat- 
ter, that the popular aldennau was elected for a year 
only, and that the royal alderman held hi? place at 
the king's pleasure. This latter office, however, in 
process of time, was granted for life ; and it grew 
afterwards to be hereditary in many shires. 

We cannot pretend to sav when the Slier- ^ .^ .. 
iff came to be substituted in the place of tlio 
Ealdorman : some authors thiiik King Alfred the con- 
triver of this regulation. It might have arisen from 
the nature of the thing itself. As several persons 
of consequence enough to obtain by their interest or 
power the place of alderman were not sufficiently 
qualified to perform the duty of the office, they con- 
tented themselves with the honorary pait, and left 
the judicial province to their substitute.* The busi- 
ness of the robe to a rude martial people was con- 
temptible and disgusting. The thanes, in their pri- 
vate jurisdictions, had delegated their power of judg- 
ing to their reeves, or stewards ; and the earl, or 
alderman, who was in t'e shire what the thane was 
in his manor, for the same rens^' officiated by his 
deputy, the shire-reeve. This is the origin of the 
Sherifl 's Tourn, which decided in all affairs, sh^rirs 
civil and criminal, of whatever importance, ™™' 
and from which there lay no appeal but to the Wit^ 
enagemote. Now there scarce remains the shadow 
of a body formerly so great: the judge being re- 
drced almost wholly to a ministerial officer ; and to 

• Sheriff in the Norman times was merely the Icing's officer, not 
the earl's. The earl retained his ancient fee, without jnrisdiction ; 
the sheriff did all the business. The elective sheriff must have dis- 
appeared on the Conquest ; for then all land was the king's, either 
immediRtcly or mediately, and therefore his officer governed. 







the court there being left nothing more than tlie cog- 
nizance of pleas under forty shillings, unless by a par- 
ticular writ or special commission. But by what 
Bteps such a revolution came on it will be our busi- 
ness hereafter to inquire. 

witnan- The Witenagemote or Saxon Parliament, 
■^' the supreme court, had authority over all 

the rest, not upon any principle of subordination, 
but because it was formed of all the rest. In 
this assembly, which was held annually, and some- 
times twice a year, sat the earls and bishops and 
greater thanes, with the other officers of the crown.* 
So far as we can judge by the stylo of the Saxon 
laws, none but the thanes, or nobility, were consid- 
ered as necessary constituent parts of this assemldy, 
at least whilst it acted deliberatively. It is true that 
great numbers of all ranks of people atlondcJ its ses- 
sion, and gave by their attendance, and their appro- 
bation of what was done, a sanction to the laws ; but 
when they consented to anything, it was rather in 
the way of acclamation than by the exercise of a de- 
liberate voice, or a regular assent or negative. Tliis 
may be explained by considering the analogy of tlic 
inferior assemblies. All persons, of wliatever rank, 
attended at the county courts ; but they did not go 
there as judges, they went to sue for justice, — to be 
informed of their duty, and to be bound to the per- 
formance of it. Thus all sorts of people attended at 
the Witenagemotes, not to make laws, but to attend 
at the promulgation of the laws ; f as among so free 

• How this assembly was composed, or by what right the members 
Bat in it, I cannot by any means satisfy myself. What is here said 
is, I believe, nearest to the truth. 

+ Hence, perhaps, all men are supposed cognizant of the law. 





' '>ave wanted much of 
.ufirincd by tho gen- 

a people every iiistituti<>n n 
its necessary authority, if 
eral approbation. T. mbai ,i of opinion that iu 
these early timc^ .; commons sat, as they do at 
tliis day, by representation from shires and boroughs ; 
and he supports his opinion by very plausible rea- 
sons. A notion of this kind, so contrary to tho sim- 
plicity of tho Saxon ideas of govornmont, and to tlio 
genius of that people, who held tho arts and com- 
merce in so much contempt, must be founded on such 
appearances as no other explanation can account for. 
To tlie reign of Henry tho Second, tho citizens and 
burgesses were little removed from absolute slaves. 
They might bo taxed individually at what sum the 
king thought fit to demand; or they might bo dis- 
charged by offering tho king a sum, from which, if 
he accepted it, the citizens were not at libert; 'o re- 
cede ; and in either case the demand was exacted 
with severity, and even cruelty. A great difference 
is made between taxing them and those who cultivate 
lands: because, says my author, their property is 
easily concealed; they live pcnuriously, are intent 
by all methods to increase their substance, and their 
immense wealth is not easily exhausted. Such was 
their barbarous notion of trade and its importance. 
Tho same author, speaking of the severe taxation, 
and violent method of extorting it, observes that it is 
a very proper method, — and that it is very just that 
a degenerate officer, or other freeman, rejecting his 
condition for sordid gain, should be punished beyond 
the common law of freem*;n. 

I take it that those who held by ancient demesne 
did not prescribe simply not to contribute to the 
expenses of the knight of the shire ; but they pre- 

\ JT^ 






It i 

scribed, as they did in all cases, upon a general prin- 
ciple, to pay no tax, nor to attend any duty of what- 
ever species, because they were the king's villains. 
The argument is drawn from the poverty of the bor- 
oughs, which ever since the Conquest have been of 
no consideration, and yet send members to Parlia- 
ment ; which they could not do, but by some privi- 
leges inherent in them, on account of a practice of 
the same kind in the Saxon times, when they were 
of more repute. It is certain that many places now 
called boroughs were formerly towns or villages in 
ancient demesne of the king, and had, as such, writs 
directed to thcin to appear in Parliament, that they 
might make a free gift or benevolence, as the bor- 
oughs did ; and from thence arose the custom of 
summoning them. This appears by sufficient rec- 
ords. And it appears by records also, that it was 
much at the discretion of the sheriff what boroughs 
he should return ; a general writ was directed to 
him to return for all the boroughs in a shire ; some- 
times boroughs which had formerly sent members to 
Parliament were quite passed over, and others, never 
considered as such before, were returned. What is 
called the prescription on this occasion was rather a 
sort of rule to direct the sheriff in the execution of 
his general power than a right inherent in any bor- 
oughs. But this was long after the time of which 
we speak. In whatever manner we consider it, we 
must own thai, this subject during the Saxon times 
is extremely dark. One thing, however, is, I think, 
clear from the whole tenor of their government, and 
even from the tenor of the Norman Constitution 
long after: that their Witenagemotes or Parlia- 
ments were unformed, and that the rights by which 

1 1 


the members held their seats were far from being 
exactly ascertained. Tlie Judicia Civitatis Lond<mi<B 
afford a tolerable insight into the Saxon method of 
making and executing laws. First, the king called 
together his bishops, and such other persons as he 
thomht proper. This council, or Witenagemote, 
having made such laws as seemed convenient, they 
then swore to the observance of them. The king sent 
a notification of these proceedings to each Burgmote, 
where the people of that court also swore to the ob- 
servance of them, and confederated, by means of 
mutual strength and common charge, to prosecute 
delinquents against them. Nor did there at that 
time seem to be any other method of enforcing new 
laws or old. For as the very form of their govern- 
ment subsisted by a confederacy continually renewed, 
BO, when a law was made, it was necessary for its ex- 
ecution to have again recourse to confederacy, which 
was the great, and I should almost say the only, prin- 
ciple of the Anglo-Saxon government. 

Whrt rights the king had in this assembly is a 
matter of equal uncertainty.* The laws generally 
run in his name, with the assent of his wise men, 
&c But considering the low estimation of royalty 
in those days, this may rather be considered as the 
voice of the executive magistrate, of the person who 
compiled the law and propounded it to the Witena- 
gemote for their consent, than of a legislator dic- 
tating from his own proper authority. For then, 
it seems, the law was digested by the king or his 
council for the assent of the general assembly. 1 hat 

• Debet etiam rex omnia rite facere in regno, et per judicium pro- 

cerum justitiam per consilium procerum r.gni 

Bui tenere. — Leges Ed. 17 












fe 'h 

^ k 1 1 

'"1 '■ 

Saxon laws. 

order is now reversed. All these things are, I think, 
suflScient to show of what a visionary nature those 
systems are which would settle the ancient Constitu- 
tion in the most remote times exactly in the same 
form in which we enjoy it at this day, — not consid- 
ering that such mighty changes in manners, during 
so many ages, always must produce a considerable 
change in laws, ancl in the forms as well as the pow- 
ers of all governments. 

We shall next consider the nature of the laws 
passed in these assemblies, and the judicious man- 
ner of proceeding in these several courts which we 
liave described. 

The Anglo-Saxons trusted more to the 
strictness of their police, and to the simple 
manners of their people, for the preservation of peace 
and order, than to accuracy or exquisite digestion of 
their laws, or to the severity of the punishments 
which they inflicted.* The laws which remain to us 
of that people seem almost to regard two points only : 
the suppressing of riots and affrays, — and the regu- 
lation of the several ranks of men, in order to adjust 
the fines for delinquencies according to the dignity 
of the person offended, or to the quantity of the 
offence. In all other respects their laws seem very 
imperfect. They often speak in the style of counsel 
as well as that of command. In the collection of 
laws attributed to Alfred we have the Decalogue 

• The non-obserrance of a reguktion of police was always heavily 
punished by barbarous nations ; a slighter punishment was inflicted 
upon the commission of crimes. Among the Saxons most crimes 
were punished by fine ; wandering from the highway without sound- 
ing an horn was death. So among the Druids, - to enforce ex- 
actness in time at their meetings, he that came last after the tim« 
appointed was punished with death. 



transcribed, with no small part of the Levitical low ; 
in the same code are inserted many of the Saxon 
institutions, though these two laws were in all re- 
spects as opposite as could possibly be imagined. 
These indisputable monuments of our ancient rude- 
ness are a very sufficient confutation of the pane- 
gyrical declamations in which some persons would 
persuade us that the crude institutions of an unlet- 
tered people had attained an height which the united 
efforts of necessity, learning, inquiry, and experience 
can hardly reach to in many ages. We must add, 
that, although as one people under one head there 
was some resemblance in the laws and customs of 
our Saxon ancestors throughout the kingdom, yet 
there was a considerable difference, in many ma- 
terial points, between the customs of the several 
-^hires: nay, that in different mai.ors subsisted a va- 
riety of laws not reconcilable with each other, some 
of which custom, that caused them, has abrogated ; 
others have been overruled by laws or public judg- 
ment to the contrary ; not a few subsist to this time. 

The Saxon laws, imperfect and various as they 
were, served in some tolerable degree a people who 
had by their Constitution an eye on each other's 
concerns, and decided almost all matters of any 
doubt amongst them by methods which, however 
inadequate, were extremely simple. Tlioy judged 
every controversy either by the conscience of the 
parties, or by the country's opinion of it, or what 
they judged an appeal to Providence. They were 
unwilling to submit to the trouble of weighing con- 
tradictory testimonies; and they were destitute of 
those critical rules by which evidence is sifted, the 
true distinguished from the false, the certain from 







the uncertain. Originally, therefore, the defendant 
Purgation in the suit was put to his oath, and if on 
byoiiui. qj^jIj jjg denied the debt or tlie came with 
which he was charged, he was of course acquitted. 
But when the first fervors of religion began to decay, 
and fraud and the temptations to fraud to increase, 
they trusted no longer to the conscience of the party. 
They cited him to an higher tribunal, — the imme- 
diate judgment of God. Their trials were so many 
conjurations, and the magical ceremonies of barbarity 
and heatlitnism entered into law and religion. This 
supernatural method of process they called God's 
Dome; ii is generally known by the name 
of Ordeal, whicli in the Saxon language sig- 
nifies the Great Trial. This trial was made either by 
fire or water: that by fire was principally reserved 
for persons of rank ; that by water decided the fate 
of the vulgar ; sometimes it v-^s at the choice of the 
party. A piece of iron, kept with a religious venera- 
tion in some monastery, which claimed this privilege 
as an honor, was brought forth into the cliurch upon 
the day of trial ; and it was there again consecrated 
to this awful purpose by a form of service still extant. 
A solemn mass was performed; and then the party 
accused appeared, surrounded by the clergy, by his 
judges, and a vast concourse of people, suspended 
and anxious for the event; all that assisted purified 
themselves by a fast of three days ; and the accused, 
who had undergone the same fast, and received the 
sacrament, took the consecrated iron, of about a 
pound weight, heated red, in his naked hand, and in 
that manner carried it nine feet. This done, the 
hand was wrapped up and sealed in the presence of 
the whole assembly. Three nights be;'ng passed, the 






seals were opened before all the people : if the hand 
was found without any sore inflicted by the fire, the 
party was cleared with universal acclamation ; if on 
the contrary a raw sore appeared, the party, con- 
demned by the judgment of Heaven, had no further 
plea or appeal. Sometimes the accused walked over 
nine hot irons: sometimes boiling water was usedj 
into this the man dipped his hand to the arm. The 
judgment by water was accompanied by the solemni- 
ty of the same ceremonies. The culprit was thrown 
into a pool of water, in which if he did not sink, he 
was adjudged guilty, as though he element (they 
said) to which they had committed the trial of his 
innocency had rejected him. 

Both these species of ordeal, though they equally 
appealed to God, yet went on different principles. 
In the fire ordeal a miracle must be wrought to ac- 
quit the party ; in the water a miracle was necessary 
to convict him. Is there any reason for this extraor- 
dinary distinction? or must we resolve it solely into 
the irregular caprices of the human mind? The 
greatest genius which has enlightened this ago seems 
in this affair to have been carried by the sharpness of 
his wit into a subtilty hardly to be justified by the 
way of thinking of that unpolished period. Speak- 
ing of the reasons for introducing this method of 
trial, ''Qui ne voit;' says he, " (jue, ehez un peuple ex- 
erc6 a manier des armes, lapeau rude et calleuse ne de- 
voit pas recevoir assezV impression dufer chaud, . . . . 
pour quil y pardt trois jours apres ? Et s'il y parois- 
toit, c'Hoit une marque que celui qui faisoit Vepreuve 
4toit un effcmini." And this mark of effeminacy, he 
observes, in those warlike times, supposed that the man 
has resisted the principles of his education, that he is 




insensible to honor, and regardless of the opinion of 
his country. But supposing the effect of hot iron to 
bo so slight even on the most callous hands, of which, 
however, there is reason to doubt, yet we can hardly 
admit this reasoning, when we consider that women 
were subjected to this fire ordeal, and that no other 
women than those of condition could be subjected to 
it. Montesquieu answers the objection, which he fore- 
saw would be made, by remarking, that women might 
have avoided this proof, if they could find a cham- 
pion to combat in their favor ; and he thinks a just 
presumption might be formed against a woman of 
rank who was so destitute of friends as to find no 
protector. It must be owned that the barbarous peo- 
ple all over Europe were much guided by presump- 
tions in all their judicial proceedings ; but how shall 
we reconcile all this with the custom of the Anglo- 
Saxons, among whom the ordeal was in constant use, 
and even for women, without the alternative of the 
combat, to which it appears this people were entire 
strangers? What presumption can arise from the 
event of the water ordeal, in which no callosity of 
hands, no bravery, no skill in arms, could be in any 
degree serviceable ? The causes of both may with 
more success be sought amongst the superstitious 
ideas of the ancient Northern world. Amongst the 
Germans the administration of the law was in the 
hands of the priests or Druids.* And as the Druid 
worship paid the highest respect to the elements of 

* The Drnids judged not as magistrates, bat as interpreters of the 
will of Heaven. " Cetemm neqne animadvertere, neque rincire, ne- 
qne verberare qnidem, nisi sacerdotibas permissnm ; non quasi in poe- 
nam, nee dncis jussu, sed velat Deo imperante," says Tacitus, de 
Mor. German. 7. 


- J wiii . sAi i ij i 



fire and water, it was very natural that they who 
abounded with so many conjurations for the discov- 
ery of doubtful facts or future events should make 
use of these elements in their divination. It may 
appear the greater wonder, how the people came to 
continue so long, and with such obstinacy, after the 
introduction of Christianity, and in spite of the fre- 
quent injunctions of 'S^ e Pope, whose authority was 
then much venerated, iU the use of a species of proof 
the insufficiency of which a thousand examples might 
have detected. But this is perhaps not so unac- 
countable. Persons were not put to this trial, unless 
there was pretty strong evidence against them, some- 
thing sufficient to form what is equivalent to a cor- 
pus delicti; they must have been actually found 
guilty by the duodecemvirale judicium, before they 
could be subjected in any sort to the ordeal. It 
was in effect showing the accused an indulgence 
to give him this chance, even such a chance as it 
was, of an acquittal ; and it was certainly much 
milder than the torture, which is used, with full 
as little certainty of producing its end, among the 
most civilized nations. And the ordeal without ques- 
tion frequently operated by the mere terror. Many 
persons, from a dread of the event, chose to discover 
rather than to endure the trial. Of those that did 
endure it, many must certainly have been guilty. 
Tlie innocency of some who suffered could never be 
known with certainty. Others by accident might 
liave escaped ; and this apparently miraculous escape 
had great weight in confirming the authority of this 
trial. How long did we continue in punishing inno- 
cent people for witchcraft, though experience might, 
to thinking persons, have frequently discovered the 




'k »r 


injustice of that proceeding! whilst to the goner- 
alitj a thousand equivocal appearances, confessions 
from fear or weakness, in fine, the torrent of popu- 
lar prejudice rolled down through so many ages, con- 
spired to support the delusion, 
oomporfif To avoid as much as possible this se- 
""^ vere mode of trial, and at the same time 

to leave no inlet for perjury, another method of clear- 
ing was devised. The party accused of any crime, 
or charged in a civil complaint, aooeared in court 
with some of his neighbors, who w^.e c.iiled his Com- 
purgators ; and when on oath he denied the charge, 
they swore that they believed his oath to be true.* 
These compurgators were at first to be three ; after- 
wards five were required ; in process of time twelve • 
became necessary.f As a man might be charged 
by the opinion of the country, so he might also be 
discharged by it : twelve men were necessary to find 
him guilty, twelve might have acquitted him. If 
opinion supports all government, it not only sup- 
ported in the general sense, but it directed every 
minute part in the Saxon polity. A man who did 
not seem to have the good opinion of those among 
whom he lived was judged to be guilty, or at least 
capable of being guilty, of every crime. It was up- 
on this principle that a man who could not find 
the security of some tithing or friborg for his be- 
havior,! he that was upon account of this universal 

* Si qnis emendationem oppidornm vel pondnm rel profectionem 
mOitarem detrectaverit, compenset re^ cxx solidis, . . . . rel pnr- 
get M, et nominentnr ei xiv, et eligantar xi. — Leges Cnnti, 63. 

t Si accasatio sit, et pargatio male succedat, jndicet Episcopoa.— 
Leges Cnnti, 53. 

) Every man not privileged, whsther lie be paterfamiliai, (heorth- 

- •^-^ 



desertion called Friendless Man, was by oiir ancefr 
to.-s condemned to death, -a punishment which the 
lenity of the English laws in that time scarcely in- 
flicted for any crime, however clearly proved: a 
circumstance which strongly marks the gemus of 
the Saxon government. 

On the same principle from which the tn- wjj^ ti- 
al by the oath of compurgators was derived, 
was derived also the Trial by the Country, which 
was the method of taking the sense of the neighbor- 
hood on any dubious fact. If the matter was of great 
importance, it was put in the full Shiremote -and if 
the general voice acquitted or condemned, decided 
for one party or the other, this was final in the cause. 
But then it was necessary that all should agree : for 
it does not appear that our ancestors, in those days, 
conceived how any assembly could be supposed to 
give an assent to a point concerning which several 
who composed that assembly thought differently. 
They had no idea that a body composed of several 
could act by the opinion of a small majority. But 
experience having shown that this method of trial 
was tumultuary and uncertain, they corrected it by 
the idea of compurgation. The party concerned was 
no longer put to his oath,-he simply pleaded ; the 
compurgators swore as before in ancient times ; there- 
fore the jury were strictly from the neighborhood, and 

tet*) or pedUseqna. (folghere.t) n>nst enter .to the hundred «d 
tiJhing. .nrall above twelve to swear he will not be a th.ef or con- 
jenting to a thief. —Leges Cnuti, 19. 
. H.orthfe..«,-tl,,I... the n.».er of a hmlly, from the 

tuunt, or HouKkeepen. - Bn«ton, Ub. m., Tract. S, cp. 10. Lege. 
eap. I. 



were supposed to have a personal knowledge of the 
man and the fact. They were rather a sort of evi- 
dence than judges : and from hence is derived that 
singularity in our laws, that most of our judgments 
are given upon verdict, and not upon evidence, con- 
trary to the laws of most other countries. Neither 
are our juries bound, except by one particular stat- 
ute, and in particular cases, to observe any positive 
testimony, but are at liberty to judge upon presump- 
tions. These are the first rude clialkings-out of 
our jurisprudence. The Saxons were extremely im- 
perfect in their ideas of law, — the civil institutions 
of the Romans, who were tlie legislators of mankii) ', 
having never reached them. The order of our con* • - , 
the discipline of our jury, by which it is becom' .0 
elaborate a contrivance, and the introduction of a 
sort of scientific reason in the law, have been the 
work of ages. 

As the Saxon laws did not suffer any transaction, 
whether of the sale of land or goods, to pass but in 
the shire and before witnesses, so all controversies 
of them wer° concluded by what they called the scyre 
witness.* '. .'.s was tried by the oaths of the parties, 
by vivd voce testimony, and the producing of charters 
and records. Then the people, laity and clergy, 
whether by plurality of votes or by what other means 
is not very certain, affirmed the testimony in fa- 
vor of one of the claimants. Then the proceeding 
was signed, first by those who held the court, and 
then by the persons who affirmed the judgment, who 
also swore to it in the same manner.f 

• Si qnis terrain defenderit testir-onio provincis, &c. — Leges Cnn- 
ti, 76 : And sethc land gewerod hebbe be scyre gewitnesse. 

t See, in Madox, the case in Bishop of Bathes Court. See abo 



The Saxons were extremely moderate p.njA. 
m their punishments. Murder and treason 
were compounded, and a fine set for every offence. 
Forfeiture for felony was incurred only by those that 
fled The punishment with death was very rare,— 
with tortur.j unknown. In all ancient nations, the 
punishment of crimes was in the family injured by 
them, particularly in case of murder.* Tins brought 
deadly feuds amongst the people, which, m the Ger- 
man nations particularly, subsisted through several 
generations. But as a fruitless revenge could answer 
little purpose to the parties injured and was ruinous 
to the public peace, by the interposal of good offices 
they were prevailed upon to accept some composition 
in lieu of the blood of the aggressor, and peace was 
restored. The Saxon government did little more 
than act the part of arbitrator between the contend- 
ing parties, exacted the payment of this composition, 
and reduced it to a certainty. However, the king, 
as the sovereign of all, and the sheriff, as the judicial 
officer, had their share in those fines. This unwiU- 
ingness to shed blood, which the Saxon cistoras 
gave rise to, the Chri'-tian religion confirmed. Yet 
was it not altogether so imperfect as to have no 
punishment adequate to those great delinquencies 

Brady, 272. where the witnesws on one .ide offer tc .wear, or join 

battle with the other. ^^,„,. 

• Parcntibas occisi fiat emendatio, vel guerra eorum portetur, 
nnde Anglicfe provcrbium habetur, Bige spcre of side, oththe bsr; 
id est, Eme lanccam a latere, aut fer. — Leges Ed. 12. 

The fines on the town or hundred. 

Parente. mnrdrati Bex n.arcas haberent, rex qn»J«P;»*^ £™* 
different from the ancient wage, where the bng had half.) 8' P^ 
te. deessent, dominu, eju. reciperet. Si dominum non haberet. fela. 
gas ejus, id est, fide cum eo ligatns.— Leget Ed. 15. 






r f> 

which tend eniir.iy o n irturn a state, public rob- 
bery, murder .>r the lor'1 • 

orifinotm- As among. I . ite Anglo-Saxons government 
""""• depended in some measure upon land-prop- 
erty, it will not be amiss to say something upon their 
manner of holding and inheriting their lands. It 
must not be fbrgot that the Germans were of Scyth- 
ian original, and had preserved that way of life and 
those peculiar manners which distinguished the par- 
ent nation. As the Scythians lived principally by 
pasturage and hunting, from the nature of that way 
of employment they were continually changing their 
habitations. But even in this case some small degree 
of agriculture was carried on, and therefore some sort 
of division of property became necessary. This diyis- 
ion was made among each tribe by its proper chief. 
A^ari But their shares were allotted to the sev- 
'^''*^- eral individuals only for a year, lest they 
should come to attach themselves to any certain hab- 
itation: a settlement being wholly contrary to the 
genius of the Scythian manners. 

Carapestre* melins Scyth«, 
Qnorura plaustra vapas rite trahnnt domof, 

Vivunt, et rigidi GeUB, 
Immetata quibui jugera liberas 

Frnges ct Ccrerem fernnt. 
Nee cultura placet longior annni. 

• Purveyance. "'■ J>ge« Cnnti, 67. 

Si quia ntestotas ux hac vita dccedat, eive »it per negligentiam 
ejus, iive per mortem subitaneam, tunc non hssumat sibi dominns 
plus po8;28aionH isehta^ ipsius qnam justiim arraamentum; sed post 
mortem possesslo {w igescyft) ejus qnam jUNtissime distribnatar 
nxori et lihe.ris, et propinqnis cognatis, cnilibet pro dignitatts ^uss ad 
cum pertinet. — Leges Cnuti, 68. 




Tliis cuFtom of an annua prop«rtr nrobaMy contui- 
ued amon-xt the Germans as long ^s thoy r-nminoa 
in their ow:, country ; but .en t conq^' ^ts car- 
ried th.«m into other i>art8, another -yect h ides the 
P08se88u,n ( f the lau ! arose which obliged .era to 
mahe a chiuige in thi. pan.- ular. In the . stnbu- 
tion of the onqnered lands, the ancient possessors 
of them became uj object of consideration, and the 
manaReraont of the^'e became one of the principal 
branches of their polity. It was expedient towards 
hoMinp them m perfect subjection, that they sh )uld 
be habituate*! to obey one person, and thrt a kind 
of cliental relation should bo reated betwc^.i the- ; 
therefore the 'and, with the slaves, and the peopl m 
a state next to slavers . annex, i to it, was e.,^ 
l>e8towed for life in th. -eneral . stribution. 
When life-estates were rr.. ited, it s-emed a naf 
ural consequence that inheritances sho Id ^ ^^ 
immediately supervene. When a dural). 
connection is created between a certain an ^cl a 
certain porti. . of lauu by a p-issession foi hi .vhok 
life and wl n his children have grown u{ ,»t.<i have 
been supr-H., i on that land, it s^ . s so ^reat an 
hardship u se-.arat ^ them, and t. deTrsv- itereby 
the family of all means of subsist g. that not, . ig 
could bo more generally desired nor m»re r «onably 
allowe' • m an inhertance;andthis '■^' 
was St ongly enforced >J the great c 
in their afftiirs vhen liic-estiues were gmau . 
according to the mci-it cu>^t. a land «■ 
eiven for a year, there was a rotation so qui k that 
every family came in its turn t ■ be easily provided for, 
and had not long to wait ; but the children uf a ten- 
ant for lifo, when thoy lost the ben Mit of their father s 


' only 

• ..1 

J ■ 

• Ml 



possession, saw themselTes as it were immured upon 
every side by the life-estates, and perceived no rea- 
sonable hope of a provision from any new arrange- 
ment. These inheritances began very early in Eng- 
land. By a law of King Alfred it appears that they 
were then of a very ancient establishment: and as 
such inheritances were intended for great stability, 
they fortified them by charters ; and there- 
fore they were called Book-knd. This was 
done with regard to the possession of the better sort : 
the meaner, who were called ceorles, if they did not 
live in a dependence on some thane, held their small 
portions of land as an inheritance likewise, — not by 
charter, but by a sort of prescription. This 
was called Folk-land. These estate", of in- 
heritance, both the greater and the meaner, were 
not fiefs; they were to all purposes allodial, and 
had hardly u single property of a feud ; they de- 
gcended equally to all the children, males and fe- 
males, according to the custom of gavelkind, a cus- 
tom absolutely contrary to the genius of the feudal 
tenure ; and whenever estates were granted in the 
later Saxon times by the bounty of the crown with 
an intent that they should be inheritable, so far were 
they from being granted with the complicated load 
of all the feudal services annexed, that in all the 
charters of that kind which subsist they are be- 
stowed with a full power of alienation, et liberi ah 
omni seculari gravamine. This was the general con- 
dition of those inheritances which were derived from 
the right of original conquest, as well to all the sol- 
diers as to the leader ; and these estates, as it is said, 
were not even forfeitable, no, not for felony, as if that 
were in some sort the necessary consequence of an 



inheritable estate. So far were they from resembling 
a fief. But there were other possessions g^^^^^ 
which bore a nearer resemblance to fiefs, 
at least in their first feeble and infantile state of 
the tenure, than those inheritances which *ere held 
by an absolute jight in the proprietor. The great 
officers who attended the court, commanded armies, 
or distributed justice must necessarily be paid and 
supported ; but in what manner could they be paid ? 
In money they could not, because there was very 
little money then in Europe, and scarce any part of 
that little came into the prince's cofifers. The only 
method of paying them was by allotting lands for 
their subsistence whilst they remained in his ser- 
vice. For this reason, in the original distribution, 
vast tracts of land were left in the hands of the king. 
If any served the king in a military command, his 
land may be said to have been in some sort held by 
knight-service. If the tenant was in an office about 
the king's person, this gave rise to sergeantry; the 
persons who cultivated his lands may be considered 
as holding by socage. But the long train of services 
that made afterwards the learning of the tenures were 
then not thought of, because these feuds, if we may 
so call them, had not then come to be inheritances, — 
which circumstance of inheritance gave rise to the 
whole feudal system. With the Anglo-Saxons the 
feuds continued to the last but a sort of pay or salary 
of office. Tlie trinoda necessitas, so much spoken of, 
which was to attend the king in his expeditions, and 
to contribute to the building of bridges and repair of 
highways, never bound the lands by way of tenure, 
but as a political regulation, which equally affected 
every class and condition of men and every species 
of possession. 


. '; 1 






The manner of succeeding to lands in 
England at this period was, as we have ob- 
served, by Gavelkind, — an equal distribution amongst 
the children males and females. The ancient North- 
em nations had but an imperfect notion of political 
power. That the possessor of the land should be the 
governor of it was a simple idea ; and their schemes 
extended but little further. It was not so in the 
Greek and Italian commonwealths. In those the 
property of the land was in all respects similar to 
that of goods, and had nothing of jurisdiction an- 
nexed to It ; the government there was a merely 
political ii ttitution. Amongst such a people the 
custom of distribution could be of no ill conse- 
quence, because it only affected property. But gav- 
elkind amongst the Saxons was very prejudicial ; for, 
as government was annexed to a certain possession 
in land, this possession, which was continually chang- 
ing, kept the government in a very fluctuating state : 
so that their civil polity had in it an essential evil, 
which contributed to the sickly condition in which 
the Anglo-Saxon state always remained, as well as 
to its final dissolution. 





BOOK m. 



BEFORE tbe period of which we are going to 
treat, England was little known or considered 
in Europe. Their situation, their domestic calami- 
ties, and their ignorance circumscribed the views and 
politics of the English within the bounds of their own 
island. But the Norman conqueror threw down all 
these barriers. The English laws, manners, and max- 
ims were suddenly changed; the scene was enlarged; 
and the communication with the rest of Europe, 
being thus opened, has been preserved ever since in 
a contmued series of wars and negotiations. That 
we may, therefore, enter mor j fully into the matters 
which lie before us, it is necessary that we under- 
stand the state of the neighboring contment at the 
time when this island first came to be interested m 

its afiiairs. 

The Northern nations who had overran the Roman 
Empire were at first rather actuated by avarice than 
ambition, and were more intent upon plunder than 
conquest; they were carried beyond tiicir ongnial 
purposes, when they began to form regular govern- 
ments, for which they had been prepared by no just 
ideas of legislation. For a long time, therefore, there 
was little of order in their affairs or foresight in 


tH 11 

li : 







i I' 


their designs. The Goths, the Eurgundiaas, the 
Franks, the Y an dais, the Suevi, after they had pre- 
vailed over the Roman Empire, by turns prevailed 
over each other in continual wars, which were car- 
ried on upon no principles of a determinate policy, 
entered into upon motives of brutality and capiice, 
and ended as fortune and rude violence chanced to 
prevail. Tumult, anarchy, confusion, overspread the 
face of Europe; and an obscurity rests upon the 
transactions of that time which suffers us to discover 
nothing but its extreme barbarity. 

Before this cloud could be dispersed, the Saracens, 
another body of barbarians from the South, animated 
by a fury not unlike that which gave strength to the 
Northern irruptions, but heightened by enthusiasm, 
and regulated by subordination and an uniform poli- 
cy, began to carry their arms, tlieir manners, and re- 
ligion into every part of the universe. Spain was 
entirely overwhelmed by the torrent of their armies, 
Italy and the islands were harassed by their fleets, 
and all Europe alarmed by their vigorous and fre- 
quent enterprises. Italy, who had so long sat the 
mistress of the world, was by turns the slave of 
all nations. The possession of that fine country was 
hotly disputed between the Greek Emperor and the 
Lombards, and it suffered infinitely by that conten- 
tion. Germany, the parent of so many nations, was 
exhausted by the swarms she had sent abroad. 

However, in the midst of this chaos there were 
principles at work which reduced things to a certain 
form, and gradually unfolded a system in wliich the 
chief movers and main springs were the Papal and 
the Imperial powers, — the aggrandizement or dimi- 
nution of which have been the drift of almost all the 



politics, intrigues, and wars which have employed and 
distracted Europe to this day. 

From Rome the whole Western world had received 
its Christianity ; she was the asylum of what learn- 
ing had escaped the general desolation; and even 
in her ruins she preserved something of the majes- 
ty of her ancient greatness. On these accounts she 
had a respect and a weight which increased every 
day amongst a simple religious people, who looked 
but a little way into the consequences of their ac- 
tions. The rudeness of the world was very favorable 
for the establishment of an empire of opinion. The 
moderation with which the Popes at first exerted 
this empire made its growth unfelt until it could no 
longer be opposed; and the policy of later Popes, 
building on the piety of the first, continually in- 
creased it: and they made use of eveiy instrument 
but that of force. They employed equally the vir- 
tues and the crimes of the great ; they favored the 
lust of kings for absolute authority, and the desire of 
subjects for liberty ; they provoked war, and medi- 
ated peace ; and took advantage of every turn in the 
minds of men, whether of a public or private nature, 
to extend their influence, and push their power from 
ecclesiastical to civil, from subjection to independen- 
cy, from independency to empire. 

France had many advantages /er the other parts 
of Europe. The Saracens had no permanent success 
in that country. The same hand which expelled 
those invaders deposed the last of a race of heavy 
and degenerate princes, more like Eastern monarchs 
than German leaders, and who had neither the force 
to repel the enemies of their kingdom nor to assert 
their own sovereignty. This usurpation placed on 




5 *■ i 

the throne princes of another character, princes who 
were obliged to supply their want of title by the vig- 
or of their administration. The French monarch had 
need of some great and respected authority to throw 
a veil over his usurpation, and to sanctify his new- 
ly acquired power by those names and appearances 
which are necessary to make it respectable to the 
people. On the other hand, the Pope, who hated the 
Grecian Empire, and equally feared the success of 
the Lombards, saw with joy this new star arise in the 
North, and gave it the sanction of his authority. 
Presently after he called it to his assistance. Pepin 
passed the Alps, relieved the Pope, and invested him 
with the dominion of a large country in the best part 
of Italy. 

Charlemagne pursued the course which was 
marked out for him, and put an end to the Lom- 
bard kingdom, weakened by the policy of his father 
and the enmity of the Popes, who never willingly saw 
a strong power in Italy. Then he received from the 
hand of the Pope the Imperial crown, sanctified by 
the authority of the Holy See, and with it the title 
of Emperor of the Romans, a name venerable from 
the fame of the old Empire, and which was sup- 
posed to carry great and unknown prerogatives ; 
and thus the Empire rose again out of its ruins in 
the West, and, what is remarkable, by means of one 
of those nations which had helped to destroy it. If 
we take in the conquests of Charlemagne, it was also 
very near as extensive as formerly; though its con- 
stitution was altogether different, as being entirely on 
the Northern model of government. From Charle- 
magne the Pope received in return an enlargement 
and a confirmation of his new territory. Thus the 


I' . 

il 1 




Papal and Imperial powers mutually gave birth to 
each other. They continued for some ages, and in 
some measure still continue, closely connected, with 
a variety of pretensions upon each other, and on the 
rest of Europe. 

Though the Imperial power had its origin in 
France, it was soon divided into two branches, the 
Gallic and the German. The latter alone supported 
the title of Empire; but the power being weakened 
by this division, the Papal pretensions had the greater 
weight. The Pope, because he first revived the Im- 
perial dignity, claimed a right of disposing of it, or at 
least of giving validity to the election of the Emperor. 
The Emperor, on the other hand, remembering the 
rights of those sovereigns whoje title he bore, and 
how lately the power which insulted him with s\ich 
demands had arisen from the bounty of his predeces- 
sors, claimed the same privileges in the election of a 
Pope. The claims of both were somewhat plausible ; 
and they were supported, the one by force of arms, 
and the other by ecclesiastical influence, powers 
which in those days were very nearly balanced. 
Italy was the theatre upon which this prize was dis- 
puted. In every city the parties in favor of each of 
the opponents were not far from an equality in their 
numbers and strength. Whilst these parties disa- 
greed in the choice of a master, by contending for 
a choice in their subjection they grew imperceptibly 
into freedom, and passed through the medium of 
faction and anarchy into regular commonwealths. 
Thus arose the republics of Venice, of Genoa, of 
Florence, Sienna, and Pisa, and several others. 
These cities, established in this freedom, turned the 
frugal and ingenious spirit contracted in such commu- 





nities to navigation and traflBc; and pursuing them 
with skill and vigor, whilst commerce was neglect- 
ed and despised by the rustic gentry of the martial 
governments, they grew to a considerable degree of 
wealth, power, and civility. 

The Danes, who in this latter time preserved the 
spirit and the numbers of the ancient Gothic people, 
had seated themselves in England, in the Low Coun- 
tries, and in Normandy. They passed from thence to 
the southern part of Europe, and in this romantic age 
gave rise in Sicily and Naples to a new kingdom and 
a new line of princes. 

All the kingdoms on the continent of Europe were 
governed nearly in the same form; from whence 
arose a great similitude in the manners of their in- 
habitants. The feodal discipline extended itself ev- 
erywhere, and influenced the conduct of the courts 
and the manners of the people with its own irregular 
martial spirit. Subjects, under the complicated laws 
of a various and rigorous servitude, exercised all the 
prerogatives of sovereign power. They distributed 
justice, they made war and peace at pleasure. The 
sovereign, ; :th great pretensions, had but little pow- 
er; he was only a greater lord among great lords, 
who profited of the differences of his peers ; there- 
fore no steady plan could be well pursued, either in 
war or peace. This day a prince seemed irresistible 
at the head of his numerous vassals, because their 
duty obliged them to war, and they performed this 
duty with pleasure. The next dcy saw this formi- 
dable power vanish like a dream, because this fierce 
undisciplined people had no patience, and the time of 
the feudal service was contained within very narrow 
limits. It was therefore easy to find a number of 



persons at all times ready to follow any standard, but 
it was hard to complete a considerable design which 
required .? regular and continued movement. This 
enterprising disposition in the gentry was very gen- 
eral, because they had little occupation or pleasure 
but in war, and the greatest rewards did then attend 
personal valor and prowess. All that professed arms 
became in some sort on an equality. A knight was 
the peer of a king, and men had been used to see the 
bravery of private persons opening a road to that dig- 
nity. The temerity of adventurers was much justified 
by the ill order of every state, which left it a prey to 
almost any who should attack it with sufficient vigor. 
Tlius, little checked by any superior power, full of 
fire, impetuosity, and ignorance, they longed to signal- 
ize themselvcLi, wherever an honorable danger called 
them ; and wiierever that invited, they did not weigh 
very deliberately the probability of success. 

The knowledge of this general disposition in the 
minds of men will naturally remove a great deal of 
our wonder at seeing an attempt founded on such 
slender appearances of right, and supported by a 
power so little proportioned to the undertaking as 
that of William, so warmly embraced and so gener- 
ally followed, not only by his own subjects, but by 
all the neighboring potentates. The Counts of An- 
jou, Bretagne, Ponthieu, Boulogne, and Poictou, 
sovereign princes, — adventurers from every quarter 
of France, the Netherlands, and the remotest parts 
of Germany, laying aside their jealousies and enmi- 
ties to one another, as well as to "William, ran with 
an mconceivable ardor into this enterprise, captivated 
with the splendor of the object, which obliterated all 
thoughts of the uncertainty of the event. William 




kept up this fervor by promises of large territories to 
all his allies and associates in the country to bo re- 
duced by their united efforts. But after all it became 
equally necessary to reconcile to his enterprise tlie 
three groat powers of whom we have just spoken, 
whose disposition must have had the most influence 
on his affairs. 

His feudal lord, the King of Prance, ^as bound by 
his most obvious interests to oppose the further ag- 
grandizement of one already too potent for a vas- 
sal. But the King of France was then a minor ; and 
Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, whose daughter William 
had married, was regent of the kingdom. This cir- 
cumstance rendered the remonstrance of the French 
Council against his design of no effect : indeed, the 
opposition of the Council itself was faint ; the idea of 
having a king under vassalage to their crown might 
have dazzled the more superficial courtiers; whilst 
those who thought more deeply were unwilling to dis- 
courage an enterprise which they believed would prob- 
ably end in the ruin of the undertaker. The Emperor 
was in his minority, as well as the King of France ; 
but by what arts tho Duke prevailed upon the Impe- 
rial Council to declare in his favor, whether or no by 
an idea of creating a balance to the power of France, 
if we can imagine that any such idea then subsisted, 
is altogether uncertain; but it is certain that he ob- 
tained leave for the vassals of the Empire to engage 
in his service, and that he made use of this permis- 
sion. The Pope's consent was obtained with still 
less difficulty. William had shown himself in many 
instances a friend to the Church and a favorer of the 
clergy. On this occasion he promised to improve 
those happy beginnings in proportion to the means 



A. D. lOM. 

he should acquire by the favor of tlie Holy See. It 
is said that he even proposed to hold his now king- 
dom as a fiof froir Rome. The Pope, therefore, en- 
tered heartily into lis interests ; he excommunicated 
all those that should oppose his enterprise, and sent 
him, as a means of insuring success, a consecrated 



After tlie Battle of Hastinirs, the taking 
of Dover, the surrender of London, and the 
submission of the principal nobility, William had 
nothing left but to order in the best manner the 
kingdom he had so happily acquired. Soon after his 
coronation, fearing the sudden and ungovcrned mo- 
tions of so great a city, new to subjection, he left 
London until a strong citadel could be raised to over- 
awe the people. This was built where the Tower of 
London now stands. Not content with this, he built 
three other strong castles in situations as advanta- 
geously chosen, at Norwich, at Winchester, and at 
Hereford, securing not only the heart of affairs, but 
binding down the extreme parts of the kingdom. 
And as he observed from his own experience the 
want of fortresses in England, he resolved fully to 
supply that defect, and guard the kingdom both 
against internal and foreign enemies. But he forti- 
fied his throne yet more strongly by the policy of 
good government. To London he confirmed by 
charter the liberties it had enjoyed under the Saxon 
kings, and endeavored to fix the affections of the Eng- 

Vi ||, 







>* . ' 


lish in general by governing them with (^ juity accord- 
ing to their ancient laws, and by treating tliem on all 
occasions with the most engaging deportment. He 
set up no pretences which arose from absolute con- 
quest. He confirm'^d their estates to all those who 
had not appeared in arras against him, and seemed 
not to aim at subjecting the English to the Normans, 
but to unite the two nations under the wings of a 
common parental care. If the Normans received es- 
tates and held lucrative offices and were raised by 
wealthy matches in England, some of the English 
were enriched with lands and dignities and taken 
into considerable familiea in Normandy. - it the 
king's principal regards were showed tc those by 
whose bravery he had attained his greatnv,dS. To 
some he bestowed the forfeited estates, whi.h were 
manv and great, of Harold's adherents ; others he 
satisfied from the treasures his rival had amassed; 
and the rest, quartered upon wealthy monasteries, 
relied patiently on the promises of one whose per- 
formances had hitherto gone liand in hand with his 
power. Tliere was another circumstance which con- 
duced mucli to the maintaining, as well as to the 
making, liis conquest. Tlio posterity of the Danes, 
who had finally reduced England under Canute the 
Great, were still very numerous in that kingdom, and 
in general not well liked by nor well aficctcd to the 
old Anglo-Saxon inhabitants. William wisely took 
advantage of this enmity between the two sorts of in- 
habitants, and the alliance of blood which was be- 
tween them and his subjects. In the body of laws 
which he published he insists strongly on this kin- 
dred, and declares that the Normans and Danes 
ought to be as sworn brothers against all men : a 

f I , 





policy whicli pr(>l)al)ly united tli'>e pooplo to liiin, or 
at least so confirmed the ancient jealousy whi< ' sub- 
sisted iictwccn them and the on.u; «al Enp;lis1i as to 
hinder any cordial union agai t i-is iuKTcst! . 

When the king had thus settled liis ac Miiisitioik by 
all the methods of foiro and policy, ho fur rht it ex- 
pedient to visit 1 "s patrJraouial territory, w lich, with 
regard to its internal state, and the jcalou^ics whicli 
his auJitional greatness revived in many of the hor- 
de! ing princes, was critic illy situated. He appoiuled 
to til. regency in his absence his biuthor Odi,. an ec- 
clesias^uc, whom ho had made Bishop cf Bay •iix, in 
France, and Earl of Kent, with greiti . ^wer and pre- 
eminence, in England, — a man bold, huicc, ambitious, 
full of craft, imperious, and without faith, but well 
versed in all affairs, vigilant, and courageous. To him 
he joined William Fitz-Osbem,his justj. .arj, a pei-M.u 
of consummate prudence and great integrity. But 
not dependhig on this disposition, to b. cure his con- 
quest, as well as to display its importance abroad, un- 
der a pretence of honor, ho carried with him all the 
chiefs of the English nobility, the popular Earls Ed- 
win and Morcar, and, what was of most importance, 
Edgar AUiciing, the last branch of the royal stock of 
the Anglo-Saxo'. kings, and infinitely dear to all the 


The king managed his affairs abroad with great 
address, and covered all his negotiations for the se- 
curity of his Norman dominions under the magnifi- 
cence of continual foastino; ud unremitted diversion, 
which, without an appearance of design, displayed 
his wealth and power, and by that means facilitated 
his measures. But whilst he was thus employed, 
his absence from England gave an opportunity to sev- 

|t V ' 

VOL. Til. 






eral humors to break out, which the late change had 
bred, but which the amazement likewise produced by 
that violent change, and the presence of tlieir con- 
queror, wise, vigilant, and severe, had hitherto re- 
pressed. The ancient line of their kings displaced, 
the only thread on which it hung carried out of the 
kingdom and ready to be cut off by the jealousy of a 
merciless usurper, their liberties none by being pro 
carious, and the daily insolencies and rapine of the 
Normans intolerable, — these discontents were in- 
creased by the tyranny and rapaciousness of the re- 
gent, and they were fomented from abroad by Eus- 
tace, Count of Boulogne. But the people, though 
ready to rise in all parts, were destitute of leaders, 
and the insurrections actually made were not carried 
on in concert, nor directed to any determinate ob- 
ject ; so that the king, returning speedily, 
*°* ^*"" and exertuig himself everywhere with great 
vigor, in a short time dissipated these ill-formed pro- 
jects. However, so general a dislike to William's gov- 
ernment had appeared on this occasion, that he be- 
came in his turn disgusted with his subjects, and be- 
gan to change his maxims of rule to a rigor wliich 
was more conformable to his advanced age and the 
sternness of his natural temper. He resolved, since he 
could not gain the affections of his su1)jects, to find 
such matter for their hatred as might weaken them, 
and fortify his own authority against the enterprises that hatred might occasion. He revived the 
tribute of Danegelt, so odious from its original cause 
and that of its revival, which he caused to be strictly 
levied throughout the kingdom. He erected castles 
at Nottingham, at Warwick, and at York, and filled 
them witli Norman garrisons. He entered into a 



stricter inquisition for the di.-covery of the estates 
forfeited on his coming in ; paying no regard to the 
privileges of the ecclesiastics, he seized upon the treas- 
ures which, as in an inviolable asylum, the unfortu- 
nate adherents to Harold had deposited in monas- 
teries. At the same time he entered into a resolution 
of deposing all the English bishops, on none of whom 
he could rely, and filling their places with Normans. 
But he mitigated the rigor of these proceedings by 
the wise choice he made in filling the places of those 
whom he had deposed, and gave by that means these 
violent changes the air rather of reformation than 
oppression. He began with Stigand, Archbishop of 
Canterbury. A synod was called, in which, for the 
first time in England, the Pope's legate a latere is 
said to have presided. In this council, Stigand, for 
simony and for other crimes, of which it is easy to 
convict those who are out of favor, was solemnly de- 
graded from his dignity. The king filled his place 
with Lanfranc, an Italian. By his whole conduct he 
appeared resolved to reduce his subjects of all orders 
to the most perfect obedience. 

The people, loaded with new taxes, the nobility, 
degraded and threatened, the clergy, deprived of 
their immunities and influence, joined in one voice 
of discontent, and stimulated each other to the most 
desperate resolutions. The king was not unapprised 
of these motions, nor negligent of them. It is tliought 
he meditated to free himself from much of his uneasi- 
ness by seizing those men on who.n the nation in its 
distresses used to cast its eyes for relief. But whilst 
lie digested tliese measures, Edgar Atlieling, Edwin 
and Morcar, Waltheof, the son of Siward, and sever- 
al others, eluded his vigilance, and escaped into Scotr 




h -ji. 

V i ^ • ,1 li 

4.0. IOCS. 


land, where they were received with open 
arms by King Malcolm. The Scottish mon- 
arch on this occasion married the sister of Edgar ; 
and this match Ciigaged him more closely to the ac- 
complishment of what his gratitude to the Saxon 
kings and the rules of good policy had before inclined 
him. He entered at last into the cause of his broth- 
er-in-law and the distressed English. He persuaded 
the King of Denmark to enter into the same meas- 
ures, who agreed to invade England with a fleet of a 
thousand ships. Drone, an Irish king, declared in 
their favor, and supplied the sons of Earl Godwin 
with vessels and men, with which tiiey held the Eng- 
lish coast in continual alarms. 

Whilst the forces of this powerful confederacy 
were collecting on all sides, and prepared to enter 
England, equal dangers threatened from within the 
kingdom. Edric the Forester, a very brave and 
popular Saxon, took up arms in the counties of 
Hereford and Salop, the country of the ancient Si- 
lures, and inhabited by the same warlike and un- 
tamable race of men. The Welsh strengthened him 
with their forces, and Cheshire joined in the re- 
volt. Hereward le Wake, one of the most 
A. B. 1089. ^^,^^^ ^^^ indefatigable soldiers of his time, 
rushed with a numerous band of fugitives and out- 
laws from the fens of Lincoln and the Isle of Ely, 
from whence, protected by the situation of the place, 
he had for some time carried on an irregular war 
against the Normans. The sons of Godwin landed 
with a strong body in the West ; the fire of rebellion 
ran through the kingdom; Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, 
at once threw off the yoke. Daily skirmishes were 
fought in every part of the kingdom, with various 


H \ 

_^1&i.ft. .^•mM 



success and with great bloodshed. The Normaua 
retreated to tlieir castles, which the English had 
rarel ,. skill or patience to master ; out of these they 
sallied from time to time, and asserted their domin- 
on. The conquered English for a moment resumed 
their spirit; the forests and morasses, with which 
this island then abounded, served them for fortifi- 
cations, and their hatred to the Normans stood in 
the place of discipline; each man, exasperated by 
his own wrongs, avenged them in his own manner. 
Everything was full of blood and violence : murders, 
burnings, rapine, and confusion overspread the whole 
kingdom. During these distractions, several of the 
Normans quitted the country, and gave up their 
possessions, which they thought not worth holding 
in continual horror and danger. 

In the midst of this scene of disorder, the king 
alone was present to himself and to his affairs. He 
first collected all the forces on whom he could de- 
pend within the kingdom, and called powerful suc- 
cors from Normandy. Then he sent a strong body 
to repress the commotions in the West; but he re- 
served the greatest force and his own presence against 
the greatest danger, which menaced from the North. 
The Scots had penetrated as far as Durham; they 
had taken the castle, and put the garrison to the 
sword. A like fate attended York from the Danes, 
who had entered the Humbcr with a formidable 
fleet. They put this city into the hands of the Eng- 
lish malcontents, and thereby influenced all the 
northern counties in their favor. William, ^^^„^ 
when he first perceived the gathering of tlie 
storm, endeavored, and with some success, to break 
the force of the principal blow by a correspondence at 





1 1 

% ■ » 

the court of Denmark ; and now he entirely blunted 
the weapon by corrupting, with a considerable sum, 
the Danish general. It was agreed, to gratify that 
piratical nation, that they should plunder some part 
of the coast, and depart without further disturbance. 
By this negotiation the king was enabled to march 
with an undissipated force against the Scots and the 
principal body of the English. Everything yielded. 
The Scots retired into their own country. Some 
of the most obnoxious of the English fled along 
with them. One desperate party, under the brave 
Waltheof, threw themselves into York, and ven- 
tured alone to resist his victorious army. William 
pressed the siege with vigor, and, notwithstanduig 
the prudent dispositions of Waltheof, and the prodi- 
gies of valor he displayed in its defence, standing 
alone in the breach, and maintaining his ground gal- 
lantly and successfully, the place was at last reduced 
by famine. The king left his enemies no time to 
recover this disaster; he followed his blow, and drove 
all who adhered to Edgar Atheling out of all the 
countries northward of the Humber. This tract he 
resolved entirely to depopulate, influenced by re- 
venge, and by distrust of the inhabitants, and partly 
with a view of opposing an hideous desert of sixty 
miles in extent as an impregnable barrier against 
all attempts of the Scots in favor of his disaffected 
subjects. Tlie execution of this barbarous project 
was attended with all the havoc and desolation that 
it seemed to threaten. One hundred thousand are 
said to have perished by cold, penury, and disease. 
The ground lay untitled throughout that whole space 
for upwards of nine years. Many of the inhabitants 
both of this and all other parts of England fled into 



Scotland ; but they were so received by King Mai 
colm as to forget that they had lost their count y. 
This wise monarch gladly seized so fair an opportu- 
nity,by the exertion of a benevolent policy, to peo- 
pie his dominions, and to improve his native subjects. 
He received the English nobility according to their 
rank, he promoted them to offices according to tlieir 
merit, and enriched them by considerable estates from 
his own demesne. From these noble refugees several 
considerable families in Scotland are descended. 

William, on the other hand, amidst all the excesses 
which the insolence of victory and the cruel precau- 
tions of usurped authority could make him commi , 
gave many striking examples of moderation and great- 
uess of mind. He pardoned Waltheof, whose brav- 
ery he did not the less admire because it was exerted 
against himself. He restored him to his ancient lion- 
ors and estates ; and thinking his family strengtliened 
by the acquisition of a gallant man, he bestowed up- 
on him his niece Judith in marriage. On Ldric the 
Forester, who lay under his sword, in the same gen- 
erous manner he not only bestowed his life, but hon- 
ored it with an addition of dignity. 

Tlie king, having thus, by the most politic and the 
most courageous measures, by art, by force by se- 
verity, and by clemency, dispelled those clouds which 
had gatliered from every quarter to overwhelm l.un, 
returned triumphant to Wincliester, where, as if he 
had newly acquired the kingdom, he was crowned 
with great solemnity. After this he proceeded to ex- 
ecute tlie plan he had long proposed of modelhng the 
Btate according to his own pleasure, and of fixing his 
authority upon an immovable foundation. 

There were few of tlie Kiiglish who in the late dis- 

>b , 

.riSN' izarif 'ati 



'Mi f 

turbances had not either been active against the Nor- 
mans or shown great disinclination to them. Upon 
some riglit, or some pretence, the greatest part of 
their lands were adjudged to be forfeited. William 
gave these lands to Normans, to be held by the ten- 
ure of knight-service, according to the law which 
modified that service ir. all parts of Europe. These 
people he cliose because he judged they must be faith- 
ful to the interest on which they depended ; and this 
tenure he chose because it raised an army without 
expense, called it forth at the least warning, and 
seemed to secure the fidelity of the vassal by the 
multiplied ties ->f those services which were insep- 
arably annexed to it. In the establishment of these 
tenures, William only copied the practice which was 
now become very general. One fault, however, ho 
seems to have committed in this distribution: the 
immediate vassals of the crown were too few ; the 
tenants in capite at the end of tiiis reign did not ex- 
ceed seven hundred ; tlie eyes of the subject met too 
many great objects in the state besides the state 
itself; and the dependence of the inferior people 
was weakened by the interposal of anotlier authority 
between them and the crown, and this without being 
at all serviceable to liberty. The ill consequence of 
this was not so obvious whilst the dread of the Eng- 
lish made a good correspondence between the sover- 
eign and the great vassals absolutely necessary ; but 
if afterwards appeared, and in a light very offensive 
to the power of our kings. 

As there is nothing of more consequence in a state 
than the ecclesiastical establishment, there was noth- 
ing to which this vigilant prince gave more of his at- 
tention. If lie owed his own power to the influence 



of the clergy, it convinced him how necessary it was 
to prevent that engine from being employed in its 
turn against himself. He observed, that, besides tho 
influence they derived from thtir character, they had 
a vast portion of that power which always attends 
property. Of about sixty thousand knights' fees, 
which England was then judged to contain, twenty- 
eight thousand were in the hands of the clergy ; and 
those they held discharged of all taxes, and free 
from every burden of civil or military service : a con- 
Btitution undoubtedly no loss prejudicial to the au- 
thority of the state than detrimental to the strength 
of the nation, deprived of so much revenue, so many 
soldiers, and of numberless exertions of art and m- 
dustry, which were stifled by holding a third of the 
soil in dead hands out of all possibility of circulation. 
William in a good measure remedied these evils, but 
with the great offence of all the ecclesiastic orders. At 
the same time that ho subjected the Church lands to 
military service, he obliged each monastery and bish- 
opric to the support of soldiers, in proportion to the 
number of knights' fees that they possessed. No less 
jealous was he of the Papal pretensions, which, hav- 
ing favored so long as they served him as tlie instru- 
ments of his ambition, he afterwards kept within very 
narrow bounds. He suffered no communication with 
Rome but by his knowledge and approbation. He 
had a bold and ambitious Pope to deal with, who yet 
never proceeded to extremities with nor gained one 
advantage over William during his whole reign, — al- 
though he had by an express law reserved to himself 
a sort of right in approving the Pope chosen, by for- 
bidding his subjects to yield obedience to any whoso 
rin-ht the king had not acknowledged. 


J' ■ n I 



fil, i 

To form a just idea of the power and greatness of 
this king, it will be convenient to take a view of his 
revenue. And I the rather choose to dwell a little 
upon this article, as nothing extends to so many ob- 
jects as the public finances, and consequently nothing 
puts in a clearer or more decisive li ^ht the maimers 
of the people, and the form, as well as the powers, of 
government at any period. 

The first part of this consisted of the demesne. 
Tlie lands of the crown were, even before the Con- 
quest, very extensive. The forfeitures consequent to 
that great change had considerably increased them. 
It appears from the record of Domesday, that the 
king retained in his own hands no fewer than four- 
teen hundred manors. Tliis alone was a royul reve- 
nue. However, great as it really was, it has been 
exaggerated beyond all reason. Ordericus Vitalis, a 
writer almost contemporary, asserts that this branch 
alone produced a thousand pounds a day,*— which, 
valuing the pound, as it was then estimated, at a real 
pound of silver, and then allowing for the difference in 
value since tiiat time, will make near twelve millions 
of our money. This account, coming from such an 
authority, has been copied without examination by 
all the succeeding historians. If we were to admit 
the truth of it, we must entirely change our ideas 
concerning the quantity of money which then circu- 
lated in Europe. And it is a matter altogether mon- 
strous and incrodible in an ago when there was little 
traffic in this nation, and the traffic of all nations cir- 
culated but little real coin, when the tenants paid the 

• 1 have known, myself, great mistakes in calculation by compnt 
Ing, as the produce of every day in the year, that of one extraordi- 
nary day. 

, -iiiijsiaseiWt:*' : 




Kreatest part of their routs iu kind, aud wlien it may 
be Kreatly doubted whether there was 80 much cur- 
rent money iu the nation as is said to have come mto 
the king's coffers from this one branch of his revenue 
only. For it amounts to a twelfth part of all the 
circulating species which a trade infinitely more 
extensive has derived from sources mfinitely more 
exuberant, to this wealthy nation, in this unproved 
age. Neither must we think that the whole revenue 
of this prince ever rose to such a sum. The great 
fountain which fed his treasury must have been 
Danegelt, which, upon any reasonable calculation, 
could not possibly exceed 120,000L of our money, 
if it ever reached that sum. William was observed 
to be a great hoarder, and very avaricious; his army 
was maintained without any expense to him, his de- 
mesne supported his household ; neither his necessary 
nor his voluntary expenses were considerable. Ye 
the effects of many years' scraping and hoarding left 
at his death but 60,000?., -not the sixth part of 
one year's income, according to this account, of one 
branch of his revenue; and this was then esteemed a 
vast treasure. Edgar Atheling, on being reconciled 
to the king, was allowed a mark a day for his ex- 
penses, and he was thought to be allowed sufl.cently 
Lugh he received it in some sort as an equivalent 
for Ws right to the crown. I venture on this digres- 
sion, because writers in an ignorant age inakmg 
guesses at random, impose on more enlightened 
times, and affect by their mistakes many of our rea- 
sonings on affairs of consequence; and it is tlie er- 
ror of all ignorant people to rate unknown times, dis- 
tances, and sums very far beyond their real extent. 
There is even something childish and whimsical m 






computing this revenue, as the original author has 
done, at so much a day. For my part, I do not im- 
agine it so difficult to come at a pretty accurate de- 
cision of the truth or falsehood of this story. 

The aboTe-mentioned manors are charged with 
rents from five to an hundred pounds each. The 
greatest number of those I have seen in print are 
under fifty ; so that we may safely take that number 
as a just medium ; and then the whole amount of 
the demesne rents will be 70,000?., or 210,000/. of 
our money. This, though almost a fourth less than 
the sum stated by Vitalis, still seems a great deal too 
high, if we should suppose the wliole sum, as that 
author does, to be paid in money, and that money to 
be reckoned by real pounds of ailver. But wo must 
observe, that, when sums of money are set down 
in old laws and recor«is, the interpretation of tliose 
words, pounds and shillings, is for the most part 
oxen, sheep, corn, and provision. When real coin 
money was to be paid, it was called white money, or 
argentum album, and was only in a certain stipulated 
proportion to what was rendered in kind, and that 
proportion generally very low. This method of pay- 
ing rent, though it entirely overturns the prodigious 
idea of that monarch's pecuniary wealtli, was far 
from being less conducive to his greatness. It e-i 
abled him to feed a multitude of people, — one .>: the 
surest and largest sources of influence, and wliicli 
always outbuys money in the traffic of afioctions. 
This revenue, which was the chief support of the 
dignity of our Saxon kings, was considerably in- 
creased by the revival of Danegelt, of the ix.iposi- 
tion of which we have already spoken, and wliich 
is supposed to have j)roduced an annual income 
of 40,000Z. of money, as then valued. 





Tlio next branch of the king's revenue were the 
feudal duties, by him first uirroduced into Eng- 
land,— namely, ward, marriage, relief, and aids. 
By the first, the heir of every tenant who held im- 
mediately from the crown, during his minority, was 
in ward for his body and his land to the king ; so 
that ho had the formation of his mind at that early 
and ductile ago to mould to his own purposes, and 
the entire profits of his estate either to augment his 
demesne or to gratify his dependants: and as we 
have already seen how many and how vast estates, 
or rather, princely possessions, were then held imme- 
diately of the crown, we may comprehend how im- 
portant an article this must have been. 

Though the heir had attained his ago before the 
death of his ancestor, yet the king intruded between 
him and his inheritance, and obliged him to redeem, 
or, as the term then was, to relieve it. The quantity 
of this relief was generally pretty much at the kuig's 
discretion, and often amounted to a very great sum. 

But the king's demands on his rents in chief were 
not yet satisfied. He had a right and interest in the 
marriage of heirs, both males and females, virgins 
and widows, — and either besto- -ed them at plcasu.-e 
on his favorites, or sold them to the best bidder. The 
king received for the sale of one heiress the sum of 
20,000^., or 60,000Z. of our present money, — and 
tin's at a period when the chiei estates were much 
reduced. And from hence was derived a great 
source of revenue, if this right were sold, — of in- 
fluence and attachment, if bestowed. 

Under the same head of feudal duties were the 
casual aids to knight his eldest sou and marry his 
eldest daughter. These duties could be paid but 





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once, and, though not considerable, eased him in 
these articles of expenses. 

After the feudal duties, rather in the order than in 
point of value, was the profit which arose from the 
sale of justice. No man could then sue in the king's 
court by a common or public right, or without pay- 
ing largely for it, — sometimes the third, and some- 
times even half, the value of the estate or debt sued 
for. These presents were called oblations ; and the 
records preceding Magna Charta, and for some time 
after, are full of them. And, as the king thought fit, 
this must have added greatly to his power or wealth, 
or indeed to both. 

The fines and amercements were another branch ; 
and this, at a time when disorders abounded, and 
almost every disorder was punished by a fine, was a 
much greater article than at first could readily be 
imagined, — especially when we consider that there 
were no limitatio;is in this point but the king's mer- 
cy, particularly in all offences relating to the forest, 
wliich were of various kinds, and very strictly in- 
quired into. The sale of offices was not less consid- 
erable. It appears that all offices at that time were, 
or might be, legally and publicly sold, — that the 
king had many and very rich employments in his 
gift, and, though it may appear strange, not infe- 
rior to, if they did not exceed, in number and con- 
sequence, those of our present establishment. At 
one time the great seal was sold for three thousand 
marks. The office of sheriff" was then very lucrative : 
this cliarge was almost always sold. Sometimes a 
county paid a sum to the king, that he might ap- 
point a sheriff" whom they liked ; sometimes they 
paid as largely to prevent him from appointing a 


person disagreeable to them ; and thus the king 
had often from the same office a double profit in 
refusing one candidate and approving the other. If 
some offices were advantageous, others were burden- 
some ; and the king had the right, or was at least in 
the unquestioned practice, of forcing his subjects to 
accept these employments, or to pay for tb<nr im- 
munity ; by which means he could either pnaish his 
enemies or augment his wealth, as his avarice or 
his resentments prevailed. 

The greatest part of the cities and trading' towns 
were under his particular jurisdiction, and indeed in 
a state not far removed from slavery. On these he 
laid a sort of imposition, at such a time and in such 
a proportion as he thought fit. This was called a 
tallage. If the towns did not forthwith pay the sura 
at wliich they were rated, it was not unusual, for 
their punishment, to double the exaction, and to 
proceed in levying it by nearly the same methods 
and in the same manner now used to raise a con- 
tribution in an enemy's country. 

But the Jews were a fund almost inexhaustible. 
Tliey were slaves to the king in the strictest sense ; 
insomuch that, besides the various tallages and fines 
extorted from them, none succeeded to the inheri- 
tance of his father without the king's license and an 
heavy composition. He sometimes even made over 
a wealthy Jew as a provision to some of liis favorites 
for life. They were almost the only persons who ex- 
ercised usury, and thus drew to themselves the odium 
and wealth of the whole kingdom ; but they were 
only a canal, through which it passed to the royal 
treasury. And nothing could be more pleasing and 
popular than such exactions: the people rejoiced, 

' . 1 !j 



♦i ' 1 









f 1 





when they saw the Jews plundered,— not considermg 
that they were a sort of agents for the crown, who, 
in proportion to the heavy taxes they paid, were 
obliged to advance the terms and enforce with great- 
er severity the execution of their usurious contracts. 
Through them almost the whole body of the nobility 
were in debt to the king; and when he thought 
proper to confiscate the effects of the Jews, the secu- 
rities passed into his hands ; and by this means he 
must have possessed one of the strongest and most 
terrible instruments of authority that could possibly 
be devised, and the best calculated to keep the peo- 
ple in an abject and slavish dependence. 

The last general head of his revenue were the 
customs, prisages, and other impositions upon trade. 
Though the revenue arising from traffic in this rude 
period was much limited by the then smallness of its 
object, this was compensated by the weight and vari- 
ety of the exactions levied by an occasional exertion 
of arbitrary power, or the more uniform system of 
hereditary tyranny. Trade was restrained, or the 
privilege granted, on the payment of tolls, passages, 
paages, pontages, and innumerable other vexatious 
imposts, of which only the barbarous and almost un- 
intelligible names subsist at this day. 

These were the most constant and regular branches 
of the revenue. But there were other ways innu- 
merable by which money, or an equivalent in cat- 
tle, poultry, horses, hawks, and dogs, accrued to the 
exchequer. The king's interposition in marriages, 
even where there was no pretence from tenure, was 
frequently bought, as well as in other negotiations 
of less moment, for composing of quarrels, and the 
like ; and, indeed, some appear on the records, of so 




strange and even ludicrous a nature, tliat it would 
not be excusable to mention tliem, if they did not 
help to show from how many minute sources this 
revenue was fed, and how the king's power descend- 
ed to the most inconsiderable actions of private life.* 
It is not easy to penetrate into the true meaning of 
all these particulars, but tliey equally suffice to show 
the character of government in those times. A prince 
furnished with so many means of distressing enemies 
and gratifying friends, and possessed of so ample a 
revenue entirely independent of the aiToctions of his 
subjects, must have been very absolute in substance 
and efioct, whatever might have been the external 
forms of government. 

For the regulation of all these revenues, and for 
determining all questions which concerned them, a 
court was appointed, upon the model of a court of 
the same nature, said to be of ancient use in Nor- 
mandy, and called the Exchequer. 

There was nothing in the government of William 
conceived in a greater manner, or more to be com- 
mended, than the general survey he took of his 
conquest. An inquisition was made throughout 
the kingdom concerning tlie quantity of land which 
was contained in each county, — tlie name of the 
deprived and the present proprietor, — the stock 
of slaves, and cattle of every kind, which it Con- 
tained. All tliese were registercl in a book, each 

* The Bishop of Winchester fined for not putting the king in 
mind to give a girdle to the Conntess of Albemarle. — Robertns do 
Vallibns debet qninque optimos palafredos, ut rex taccret ■:■> uxoro 
Henrici Pinel. — The wife of Hugh do Ncvil fined in two hundred 
hens, that she might lie with her husband for one night ; another, 
that he might r'se from his infirmity ; a third, tliat he might cat. 

VOL. VII. 23 






I J? 













1 ; 


' , 

£:>, i 








.. - TV 




article beginning with the king's property, and pro- 
ceeding downward, according to the rank of the pro- 
prietors, in an excellent order, by which might be 
known at one glance the true state of the royal rev- 
enues, the wealth, consequence, and natural connec- 
tions of every person in the kingdom, -m ordei to 
ascertain the taxes that might bo imposed and, to 
serve purposes in the state as well as in civil causes, 
to be general and uncontrollable evidence of prop- 
erty This book is called Domesday or the Judg- 
ment Book, and still remains a grand monument 
of the wisdom of the Conqueror, — a work m all 
respects useful and worthy of a better age. 

The Conqueror knew very well how much discon- 
tent must have arisen from the great revolutions 
which his conquest produced in all men's property, 
and in the general tenor of the government. He, 
therefore, as much as possible to guard against every 
sudden attempt, forbade any light or fire to continue 
in any house after a certain bell, called curfew, had 
sounded. This bell rung at about eight in the even- 
inc. There was policy in this ; and it served to pre- 
vent the numberless disorders which arose from the 

late v-"vil commotions. . , . .i 

For the same purpose of strengt.hemng his aathor- 
ity, he introduced the Norman law, not only in its 
substance, but in all its forms, and ordered that all 
proceedings should be had according to that law 
in the French language.* The change wrought by 
the former part of this regulation could not have 
been very gi-ievous; and it was partly the necessary 
consequence of the establishment of the new tenures, 

• For 8ome particulars of the condition of the English of thU time, 
vide Eadmer, p. UO. 




and which wanted a new law to regulate them : in 
other respects the Norman iubtitutious were not very 
different from the English. But to force, against 
nature, a new language upon a conquered people, 
to make them strangers in those courts of justice in 
which they were still to retain a considerable share, 
to be reminded, every time they had recourse to gov- 
ernment for protection, of the slavciy in which it held 
tliem, — this is one of those acts of superfluous tyr- 
anny from which very few conquering nations or 
parties have forborne, though no way necessary, 
but often prejudicial to their safety. 

These severities, and affronts more gall- ^ „ ,^, 
ing than severities, drove the English to 
another desperate attempt, which was the last con- 
vulsive effort of their expiring frodom. Several 
nobles, prelates, and others, whose estates had been 
confiscated, or who were in daily apprehension of 
their confiscation, fled into the fens of Lincoln and 
Ely, where Hercward still maintained his ground. 
This unadvised step completed the ruin of the little 
English interest that remained. William hastened to 
fill up the sees of the bishops and the estates of the 
nobles with his Norman favorites. He pressed the 
fugitives with equal vivacity ; and at once to cut off 
all the advantage they derived from their situation, 
he penetrated into the Isle of Ely by a wooden bridge 
two miles in length ; and by the greatnoss of the de- 
sign, and rapidity of the execution, as mach as by the 
vigor of his charge, compelled them to surrender at 
discretion. Hereward alone escaped, who disdained 
to surrender, and had cut his way through his ene- 
mies, carrying his virtue and his sword, as his pass- 
ports, wheroooever fortune should conduct him. He 




I • 
1 ii 






M t J 


,.' i'. 


escaped happily into Scotland, where, as usual, the 
king was making some slow movements for tlie relief 
of the English. William lost no time to oppose him, 
and had passed with infinite difficulty through a des- 
ert of his own making to the frontiers of Scotland. 
Here he found the enemy strongly intrenched. The 
causes of the war being in a good measure spent by 
William's late successes, and neither of the princes 
choosing to risk a battle in a country where the 
consequences of a defeat must be so dreadful, they 
agreed to an accommodation, which included a par- 
don for Edgar Atheling on a renunciation of his title 
to the crown. William on this occasion showed, as 
he did on all occasions, an honorable and disinter- 
ested sense of merit, by receiving Hcreward to his 
friendship, and distinguishing him by particular fa- 
vors and bounties. Malcolm, by his whole conduct, 
never see^aed intent upo- coming to extremities with 
William: he was satisfied with keeping this great 
warrior in some awe, without bringing things to a 
decision, that might involve his kingdom in the same 
calamitous fate that had oppressed England ; whilst 
his wisdom enabled him to reap advantages from the 
fortunes of the conquered, in drawing so many use- 
ful people into his dominions, and from the policy of 
the Conqueror, in imitating those feudal regulations 
which he saw his neighbor force upon the English, 
and which appeared so well calculated for the de- 
fence of the kingdom. He compassed this the more 
easily, because the feudal policy, being the discipline 
of all the considerable states in Europe, appeared the 
masterpiece of government. 

If men who have engaged in vast designs could ever 
promise themselves repose, William, after so many 

--.■■ j^-.-.r^ssow r.t .--^M.; 



Tictorii , and so many political regulations to secure 
tlie fruit of them, might now flatter himself with some 
hope of quiet. But disturbances were preparing for 
his old age from a new quarter, from whence they 
were less expected and less .olerable,— from the Nor- 
mans, his companions in victory, and from his family, 
which he found not less difficulty in governing than 
his kingdom. Nothing but his absence from England 
was wanting to make the flame blaze out. The nur^- 
berless petty pretensions which the petty lords his 
neighbors on the continent had on each other and 
on William, - vith their restless disposition 

and the int"' ;. le French court, kept alive a 

constant dist .. ich made the king's presence 

on the contint quent; accessary. The Duke of 

Anjou had at this time actually invaded his ^^ ^^^^ 
dominions. Ho was obliged to pass over in- 
to Normandy with an army of fifty thousand men. 
William, who had conquered England by the assist- 
ance of the princes on the continent, now turned 
against them the arms of the English, who served liim 
with bravery and fidelity ; and by their means he soon 
silenced all opposition, and concluded the terms of an 
advantageous peace. In the mean time his Norman 
subjects in England, inconstant, warlike, independ- 
ent, fierce by nature, fiercer by their conquest, could 
scarcely brook that subordination in which their safe- 
ty consisted. Upon some frivolous pretences, chiefly 
personal disgusts,* a most dangerous conspiracy was 
formed : the principal men among the Normans were 
engaged in it; and foreign correspondence was not 
wanting. Though tliis conspiracy was chiefly formed 

• Upon occasion of a ward refused in marriage. Wright thinki 
the feudal right of marriage not the' introduced. 









and carried on by the Normans, they knew 80 well 
the use which William on this occafin would not fail 
to make of his English subjects, that they endeavorei , 
as far as was consistent with secrecy, to engage sever- 
al of that nation, and above aU, the Earl Waltheof, as 
the first in rank and reputation among his country- 
men. Waltheof, thinking it base to engage in any 
cause but that of his country against his benefactor, 
unveils the whole design to Lanfranc, who immediate- 
ly took measures for securing the chief conspirators. 
He dispatched messengers to inform tho king of his 
danger, who returned without delay at the head of 
his forces, and by his presence, and his usual bold ac- 
tivity, dispersed at once the vapors of this conspira- 
cy. The heads were punished. The rest, left under 
the shade of a dubious mercy, were awed into obedi- 
ence. His glory was, however, sullied by his putting 
to death Waltheof, who had discovered the conspira- 
cy ; but he thought the desire the rebels had shown of 
engaging him in their designs demonstrated sufficient- 
ly that Waltheof still retained a dangerous power. 
For as the years, so the suspicions, of this politic 
prince increased, — at whose time of life generosity 
begins to appear no more than a splendid weakness. 
These troubles were hardly appeased, 
**"'*°"' when others began to break forth in his 
own family, which neither his glory, nor the terror 
which held a great nation in chains, could preserve 
in obedience to him. To remove in some measure 
the jealousy of the court of France with regard to his 
invasion of England, he had promised upon his acqui- 
sition of that kingdom to invest his eldest son, Rob- 
ert, with the Duchy of Normandy. But as his new ac- 
quisition did not seem so secure as it was great and 



magiuficcnt, ho was far from any thoughts of resigning 
his hereditary dominions, which ho justly considered 
as a great instrument in maintaining his conquests 
and a necessary retreat, if he should be deprived of 
them by tlie fortune of war. So long as the state of 
liis affairs in England appeared unsettled, Robert ac 
quiesced in the reasonableness of this conduct; but 
when he saw his father established on his Mirone, and 
found himself growing old in an inglorious subjection, 
ho bejran first to murmur at thn injustice of the king, 
soon after to cabal -ith tho Norman barons an. at 
the court of Fran. . id at last openly rose m rebel- 
lion, and compelled tne -assals of the Duchr to do 
him homage. Tho king was not inclined to give up 
to force what he had refused to reason. Unbroken 
with age, unwearied with so many expeditions, ho 
passed again into Normandy, and pressed Ins son 
with tho vigor of a young warrior. 

This warf which was carried on without anything 
decisive for some time, ended by a very extraordinary 
and affecting incident. In one o those skirmishes 
which were frequent according to Me irregular mode 
Tf warfare in those days, William and his son Robert 
alike in a forward and adventurous coura e, pluaged 
into tho thickest of the fight, and unknowingly en- 
countered each other. But Robert, ««P«"«; ^^ -" 
tune, or by the vigor of his youth, wounded and un- 
horsed the old monarch, and was just on the point of 
pursuing his unhappy advantage to the fatal extremi- 
ty, when tho well-known voice of his father at onco 
si uck his ears and suspended his arm Blushing for 
his victory, and overwhelmed with t\>e united emc. 
tions of grief, shame, and returning piety, he ^ ell on 
his knees, poured out a flood of tears, and, embracing 














his father, besought him for pardon. Tlie tide of na- 
ture returning s >ngly on both, the father in Ins turn 
embraced his son, and bathed him witli his tears; 
wliiht the combatants on either side, astonished at so 
unusual a sjMJctacle, suspended the fight, applauded 
this striking act of filial piety and paternal tenderness, 
and pressed that it might become the prelude to a last- 
ing peace. Peace was made, but entirely to the ad- 
vantage of the father, who carried his son into Eng- 
land, to secure Normandy from the dangers to which 
his ambition and popularity might expose that duke- 

That William might have peace upon no part, the 
Welsh and Scots took advantage of these troubles in 
his family to break into England : but their expedi- 
tions weio rather incursions than invasions: they 
wasted the country, and then retired to secure their 
plunder. But William, always tron.blo.i, always iu 
action, and always victorious, pursue ' nn and com- 
pelled them to a peace, which was not concluded but 
by compelling the King of Scotland and all the princes 
of Wales to do him homage. How far this homage 
extended with regard to Scotland I find it difficult to 

Robert, who had no pleasure but in action, as soon 
as this war was concluded, finding that he could not 
regain his father's confidence, and that he had no 
credit at the court of England, retired to that of 
France. Edgar Atheling saw likewise that the in- 
nocence of his conduct could not make amends for 
the guilt of an undoubted title to the crown, and that 
the Conqueror, soured by continual opposition, and 
suspicious through age and the experience of man- 
kind, regarded him with an evil eye. He therefore 

\l',\ h 


deuii-od Icavo to accompany Robert om .f Hio king- 
dom, and then to muko a voyage to the Uoly Uiid. 
This leave wa» readily granted. Edgar, having dis- 
played great valor in uscIchs acU of ehivalrj abroad, 
after the Conqueror's death retuiued to Eiiglaud, 
where he long lived in great tranquillity, J'appy lu 
himself, beloved by all the people, and unfeared by 
those who held his sceptre, from his mild and inac- 
tive virtue. 

William had been so much a stranger to ^, ,,,4. 
repose that it became no longer an object 
• lesirable to him. He revived his claim to the Vexin 
Fran<iais, and some other territories on the confmcs 
of Normandy. This quarrel, whicli began between 
him and tlio Kuig of France on political motives. • ■« 
increased into rancor and bitterness, first, by a '. 
ish contest at cliess between their children, which 
was resented, more than became wise men, by the 
fathers; it was further exasperated by taunts and 
mockeries yet less becoming their age and dignity, 
but which infused a mortal venom into tlie war. 
William entered first into the French terri- ^^,„^ 
tories, wantonly wasting the country, and 
setting fire to the towns and villages. Uc entered 
Mant.^s, and as usual set it on fire ; but whilst he 
urged his horse over tho smoking ruins, and pressed 
forward to further havoc, the bca^' ' patient of the 
hot embers which burned his '....- , lounged and 
threw his rider violently on the saddle-bow. Tlie 
rim of his belly was wounded; and this wouim, as 
William was corpulent and in the decline of life, 
proved fatal. A rupture ensued, and he died at 
Rouen, after showing a desire of making amends 
for his cruelty by restitutions to the towns he had 









I ' 

destroyed, by alms and enuowmeiits, the usual fruita 
of a late penitence, and the acknowledgments which 
expiring ambition pays to virtue. 

There is nothing more memorable in history than 
the actions, fortunes, and character of this great man, 
— whether we consider the grandeur of the plans 
he formed, the courage and wisdom with which they 
were executed, or the splendor of that success wliich, 
adorning his youth, continued without the smallest 
reverse to support his age, even to the last moments 
of his life. He lived above seventy years, and reigned 
within ten years as long as he lived, sixty over his 
dukedom, above twenty over England, — both of 
which he acquired or kept by his own magnanim- 
ity, with hardly any other title than he derived from 
his arms: so that he might be reputed, in all re- 
spects, as happy as the liighest ambition, the most 
fully gratified, can make a man. The silent in- 
ward satisfactions of domestic happiness he neither 
had nor sought. He had a body suited to the char- 
acter of his mind, erect, firm, large, and active, whilst 
to be active was a praise, — a countenance stern, and 
which became command. Magnificent in liis living, 
reserved in his conversation, grave in his common 
deportment, but relaxing with a wise facetiousness, 
he knew how to relieve his mind and preserve his 
dignity: for he never forfeited by a personal ac- 
quaintance that esteem he had acquired by his great 
actions. Unlearned in books, he formed his under- 
standing by the rigid discipline of a large and com- 
plicated experience. He knew men much, and there- 
fore generally trusted them but little ; but when he 
knew any man to be good, he reposed in him an en- 
tire confidence, which prevented his prudence from 



aegenerating into a rice. He had vices in his cornpo- 
Bition, and great ones ; but they were the vices of a 
great mind: ambition, the malady of every extensive 
genius, — and avarice, the madness of the wise: one 
chiefly actuated his youth, — the other governed his 
age. The vices of young and light minds, the joys 
of wine and the pleasures of love, never reached his 
aspiring nature. The general run of men he looked 
on with contempt, and treated with cruelty when they 
opposed him. Nor was the rigor of his mind to be 
softened but with the appearance of extraordinary 
fortitude in his enemies, which, by a sympathy con- 
genial to his own virtues, always excited his admira- 
tion and insured his mercy. So that there wore often 
seen in this one man, at the same time, the extremes 
of a-savage cruelty, and a generosity that does honor 
to human nature. Religion, too, seemed to have a 
great influence on his mind, from policy, or from 
better motives ; but his religion was displayed in the 
regularity with which he performed its duties, not in 
the submission he showed to its ministers, which was 
never more than what good government required. 
Yet his choice of a counsellor and favorite was, not 
according to the mode of the time, out of that order, 
and a choice that does honor to his memory. This 
was Lanfranc, a man of great learning for the times, 
and extraordinary piety. He owed his elevation to 
William ; but though always inviolably faithful, he 
never was the tool or flatterer of the power which 
raised him; and the greater freedom he showed, the 
higher he rose in the confidence of his master. By 
mixing with the concerns of state he did not lose his 
religion and conscience, or make them the covers or 
instruments of ambition ; but tempering the fierce 















(■id J 



policy of a new power by the mild lights of religion, 
he became a blessing to the country in which he was 
promoted. The English owed to the virtue of this 
stranger, and the influence he had on the king, the 
little remains of liberty tliey continued to enjoy, and 
at last such a degree of his confidence as in some sort 
counterbalanced the severities of the former part of 
his reign. 







A. D. 1087. 

William had by his queen Matilda three 
sons, who survived him, — Robert, William, 
and Henry. Robert, though in an advanced age at 
his father's death, was even then more remarkable 
for those virtues which make us entertain hopes of 
a young man than for that steady prudence which 
is necessary when the short career we are to run 
will not allow us to make many mistakes. He had, 
indeed, a temper suitable to the genius of the time 
he lived in, and which therefore enabled him to 
make a considerable figure in the transactions wliich 
distinguished that period. He was of a sincere, 
open, candid nature ; passionately fond of glory ; 
ambitious, without having any determinate object 
in view ; vehement in his pursuits, but inconstant ; 
much in war, which he understood and loved. But 
guiding himself, both in war and peace, solely by 
the impulses of an unbounded and irregular spirit, 
he filled the world with an equal admiration and 
pity of his splendid qualities and great misfortunes. 
William was of a character very different. His views 



were short, his designs few, his genius narrow, and 
his manners brutal ; full of craft, rapacious, without 
faith, without religion ; but circumspect, steady, and 
courageous for his ends, not for glory. These quali- 
ties secured to him that fortune which the virtues of 
Robert deserved. Of Henry we shall speak hereafter. 
We have seen the quarrels, together with the 
causes of them, which embroiled the Conqueror 
with his eldest son, Robert. Although the wound 
was skinned over by several temporary and pallia- 
tive accommodations, it still left a soreness in the 
father's mind, which influenced him by his last will 
to cut off Robert from the inheritance of his Englisli 
dominions. Those he declared he derived from his 
sword, and therefore he would dispose of thorn to 
that son whose dutiful behavior had made him the 
most worthy. To William, therefore, he left his 
crown; to Henry he devised his treasures: Robert 
possessed nothing but the Duchy, which was his 
birthright. William had some advantages to en- 
force the execution of a bequest which was not in- 
cluded even in any of the modes of succession which 
then were admitted. He was at tlie time of his 
father's death in England, and had an opportunity 
of seizing the vacant government, a thing of great 
moment in all disputed rights. He had also, by 
his presence, an opportunity of engaging some of 
the most considerable leading men in his interests. 
But his greatest strength was derived from the ad- 
herence to his cause of Lanfranc, a prelate of the 
greatest authority amongst the English as well as 
the Normans, both from the place he had held in 
the Conqueror's esteem, whose memory all men re- 
spected, and from his own great and excellent quali- 



AB^IDa>f^^■': op »:nglish history. 


■ i 

I. »' 

I 1 



A. V. 1088. 

ties. By the advice of this prelate the new monarch 
professed to be entirely governed. And as an ear- 
nest of his future reign, he renounced all the rigid 
maxims of conquest, and swore to protect the Church 
and the people, and to govern by St. Edward's Laws, 
— a promise extremely grateful and popular to all 
parties: for the Normans, finding the English pas- 
sionately desirous of these laws, and only knowing 
that they were in general favorable to liberty and 
conducive to peace and order, became equally clam- 
orous for their reestablishment. By these measures, 
and the weakness of those which were adopt- 
ed by Robert, William established himself 
on his throne, and suppressed a dangerous conspiracy 
formed by some Norman noblemen in the interestn 
of his brother, although it was fomented by all the art 
and intrigue which his uncle Odo could put in prac- 
tice, the most bold and politic man of that age. 

Tlie security he began to enjoy from this success, 
and the strength which government receives by mere- 
ly continuing, gave room to his natural dispositions 
to break out in several acts of tyranny and injustice. 
The forest laws were executed with rigor, the old im- 
positions revived, and new laid on. Lanfranc made 
representations to the king on this conduct, but they 
produced no other effect than the abatement of his 
credit, which from that moment to his death, which 
happened soon after, was very little in the 
**"' ' government. The revenue of the vacant see 
was seized into the king's hands. When the Church 
lands were made subject to military service, they 
seemed to partake all the qualities of the military ten- 
ure, and to be subject to the same burdens ; and as 
on the death of a military vassal his land was in wa'"' 



ship of the lord until the heir had attained his age, 
80 there arose a pretence, on the vacancy of a bishop- 
ric, to suppose the land in ward with the king untU 
the seat should be filled. This principle, onca es- 
tablished, opened a large field for various lucratAve 
abuses ; nor could it be supp.jsed, whilst the vacancy 
turned to such good account, that a necessitous or 
avaricious king would show any extraordinary haste 
to put the bishoprics and abbacies out of his power. 
In effect, William always kept them a long time va- 
cant, and in the vacancy j,ranted away much of their 
possessions, particularly several manors belonging to 
the see of Canterbury ; and when he filled this see, 
it was only to prostitute that dignity by disposing of 
it to the highest bidder. 

To support him in these coatuzs he chose for his 
mmister Ralph Flambard, a fit instrumeni, in his de- 
signs, and possessed of such art and eloquence as to 
color them in a specious manner. This man inflamed 
all the king's passions, and encouraged him in his 
unjust enterprises. It is hard to say which \^as most 
unpopular, the king or his minister. But Flambard, 
having escaped a conspiracy against his life, and hav- 
ing punished the conspirators severely, struck such ft 
general terror into the nation, that none dared to op- 
pose him. Robert's title alone stood in the king's way, 
and he knew that this must be a perpetual source of 
disturbance to him. He resolved, therefore, to put 
him in peril for his own dominions. He collected a 
large army, and entering im-' iNormandy, he began 
a war, at first with great success, on account of a 
difference between the Dake and his broiber Hen- 
ry. But their common dread of William reconciled 
them ; and this reconciliation put them in a condition 

















' ' 


1.0'. IH 


if i 

of procuring an equal peace, the chief conditious 
of which were, that Robert should be put in pos- 
session of certain seigniories in England, and that 
each, in case of rurvival, should succeed to the oth- 
er's dominions. William concluded this peace the 
more readily, because Malcolm, King of Scotland, 
who hung over him, was ready upon every advantage 
to invade his territories, and had now actually entered 
England with a powerful army. Robert, who court- 
ed action, without regarding what interest might have 
dictated, immediately on concluding the treaty en- 
tered into his brother's service in this war against 
the Scots ; which, on the king's return, being in ap- 
pearance laid asleep by an accommodation, broke out 
with redoubled fury the following year. The King 
of Scotland, provoked to this rupture by the haughti- 
ness of William, was circumvented by the artifice and 
fraud of one of his ministers : under an appearance of 
negotiation, he was attacked and killed, to- 
gether with his only son. This was a griev- 
ous wound to Scotland, in the loss of one of the wisest 
and bravest of her kings, and in the domestic distrac- 
tions which afterwards tore that kingdom to pieces. 

No sooner was this war ended, than Wil- 
liam, freed from an enemy which had given 
himself and his father so many alarms, renewed his 
ill treatment of his brother, and refused to abide 
by the terms of the late treaty. Robert, incensed 
at these repeated perfidies, returned to Normandy 
with thoughts full of revenge and war. But he 
found that the artifices and bribes of the King of 
England had corrupted the greatest part of his bar- 
ons, and filled the country with faction and disloyal- 
ty. His own facility of temper had relaxed all the 

A.D. 1093. 

A.D. 1094. 



hands of government, and contributed greatly to theso 
disorders. In this distress he was obliged to have re- 
course to the King of France for succor. Thilip, who 
was then on the throne, entered into his quarrel. 
Nor was "William, on his side, backward ; though 
prodigal to the highest degree, the resources of his 
tyranny and extortion were inexhaustible. Tie was 
enabled to enter Normandy once more with v consid- 
erable army. But the opposition, too, was considera- 
ble ; and the war had probably been s[)un out to a 
great length, and had drawn on very bloody conse- 
quences, if one of the most extraordinary ^^ ,„^ 
events which are contained in the history 
of mankind had not suspended their arms, and drawn 
all inferior views, sentiments, and designs into the 
vortex of one grand project. This was the Crusade, 
which, with astonishing success, now began ^o bo 
preached through all Europe. This design was then, 
and it continued long after, the principle which in- 
fluenced the transactions of that period both at home 
and abroad ; it will, therefore, not be foreign to our 
subject to trace it to its source. 

As the power of the Papacy spread, the see of 
Rome began to be more and more an object of am- 
bition ; the most refined intrigues were put in prac- 
tice to attain it ; and ail the princes of Europe in- 
terested themselves in the contest. The election of 
Pope was not regulated by those prudent dispositions 
which have since taken place; there were frequent 
pretences to controvert the validity of the election, 
and of course several persons at the same time laid 
claim to that dignity. Popes and Antipopes arose. 
Europe was rent asunder by these disputes, whilst 
some princes maintained the rights of one party, and 










some defended the pretensions of the other: some- 
times the prince acknowledged one Pope, whilst his 
subjects adhered to his rival. The scandals occa- 
sioned by these schisms were infinite; and they 
threatened a deadly wound to that authority whose 
greatness had occasioned them. Princes were taught 
to know their own power. That Pope who this day 
was a suppUunt to a monarch to be recognized by 
him could with an ill grace pretend to govern him 
with an high hand the next. The lustre of the Holy 
See began to be tarnished, when Urban the Second, 
after a long contest of this nature, was universally 
acknowledged. That Pope, sensible by his own ex- 
perience of the ill consequence of such disputes, 
sought to turn the minds of the people into another 
channel, and by exerting it vigorously to give a new 
strength to the Papal power. In an ago so ignorant, 
it was very natural that men should think a great 
deal in religion depended upon the very scene where 
the work of our Redemption was accomplished. Pil- 
grimages to Jerusalem were therefore judged highly 
meritorious, and became very frequent. But the 
country which was the object of them, as well as 
several of those through which the journey lay, were 
in the hands of Mahometans, who, against all the 
rules of humanity and good policy, treated the Chris- 
tian pilgrims with great indignity. These, on their 
return, filled the minds of their neighbors with ha- 
tred and resentment against those infidels. Pope 
Urban laid hold on this disposition, and encouraged 
Peter the Hermit, a man visionary, zealous, enthusi- 
astic, and possessed of a warm irregular eloquence 
adapted to the pitch of his hearers, to preach an 
expedition for the delivery of the Holy Land. 



Great designs may be started and the spirit of 
them inspired by enthusiasts, but cool heads are re- 
quired to bring them into form. The Pope, not re- 
lying solely on Peter, called a council at Clermont, 
where an infinite number of people of all sorts were 
assembled. Here he dispensed with a full hand bene- 
dictions and indulgences to all persons who should 
engage in the expedition ; and preaching with great 
vehemence in a large plain, towards the end of his 
discourse, somebody, by design or by accident, cried 
out, " It is the will of God ! " This voice was re- 
peated by the next, and in a moment it circulated 
through this innumc-able people, which rung with 
the acclamation of " It is the will of God ! It is the 
will of God ! " * The neighboring villages caught up 
those oracular words, and it is incredible with what 
celerity they spread everywhere around into places 
the most distant. This then consid- 
ered as miraculous, contributed greatly to the suc- 
cess of the Hermit's mission. No less did the dis- 
position of the nobility throughout Europe, wholly 
actuated with devotion and chivalry, contribute to 
forward an enterprise so suited to the gratification 
of both these passions. Everything was now in mo- 
tion ; both sexes, and every station and ago and con- 
dition of life, engaged with transport in this holy 
warfare.f There was even a danger that Europe 
would be entirely exhausted by the torrents that 
were rushing out to deluge Asia. These vast bod- 
ies, collected without choice, were conducted with- 
out skill or order; and they succeeded according- 
ly. Women and children composed no small part 
of those armies, which were headed by priests ; and 


t Chron. Sax. 204. 









■^ ; 


it is hard to say which is most lamentable, the de- 
struction of such multitudes of men, or the frenzy 
which drew it upon thorn. But this design, after m- 
numerable calamities, began at last to be conducted 
in a manner worthy of so grand and bold a project. 
Raimond, Count of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, 
and several other princes, who were great captams 
as well as devotees, engaged in the expedition, and 
with suitable effects. But none burned more to sig- 
nalize his zeal and courage on this occasion than 
Robert, Duko of Normandy, who was fired with the 
thoughts of an enterprise which seemed to be made 
for his genius. He immediately suspended his inter- 
esting quarrel with his brother, and, instead of con- 
testing with him the crown to which he had such 
fair pretensions, or the duchy of which Iw was in 
possession, he proposed to mortgage to him the la^ 
ter during five years for a sum of thirteen thousand 
marks of gold. William, who had neither sense of 
religion nor thirst of glory, intrenclied in his secure 
and narrow policy, laughed at a design that had 
deceived all the great minds in Europe. He ex- 
torted, as usual, this sum from his subjects, and im- 
mediately took possession of Normandy ; whilst Rob- 
ert, at the head of a gallant army, leaving his heredi- 
tary dominions, is gone to cut out unknown king- 
doms in Asia. 

Some conspiracies disturbed the course of the reign, 
or rather tyranny, of this prince : as plots usually do, 
they ended in the ruin of those who contrived them, 
but proved no check to the ill government of Wil- 
liam Some disturbances, too, he had from the in- 
cursions of the Welsh, from revolts in Normandy, 
and from a war, that began and ended without any- 



thing memorable either in the cause or consequence, 
with France. 

He had a dispute at home wliich at another time 
had raised great disturbances ; but notliing was now 
considered but the expedition to the H0I7 Land. 
After the death of Lanfranc, William omitted for a 
long time to fill up that see, and had even alienated 
a considerable portion of the revenue. A fit of sick- 
ness, however, softened his mind ; and the clergy, 
taking advantage of those happy moments, among 
other parts of misgovernment which they advised 
him to correct, particularly urged him to fill the 
vacant sees. He filled that of Canterbury witli An- 
selm, Bishop of Bee, a man of great piety and learn- 
ing, but inflexible and rigid in whatever related to 
the rights, real or su, _^osed, of the Clmrch. This 
prelate refused to accept the see of Canterbury, fore- 
seeing the troubles that must arise from his own dis- 
positions and those of the king ; nor was ho prevailed 
upon to accept it, but on a promise of indemnification 
for what the temporalities of the see had sufiered. 
But William's sickness and pious resolutions ending 
together, little care was taken about the execution 
of this agreement. Thus began a quarrel between 
this rapacious king and inflexible archbishop. Soon 
after, Auselm declared in favor of Pope Urban, before 
the king had recognized him, and thus subjected hiir 
self to the law which William the Conqueror hai 
made against accepting a Pope without his consent. 
The quarrel was inflamed to the highest pitch ; and 
Anselm desiring to depart the kingdom, the king 


The eyes of all men being now turned ^ „ „g, 
towards the great transactions in the East, 




Willtam, Duke of Ouienne, fired by the success and 
glory that attended the holy adventurers, resolved to 
take the cross ; but Mb revenues wore not sufficient 
to support the figure his rank required in tliis expe- 
dition. He applied to the King of England, who, 
being master of the purses of his subjects, never 
wanted money, and he was politician enough to 
avail 1 raself of the prodigal, inconsiderate zeal of 
the times to lay out this money so great advantage. 
Ho acted the part of usurer to the Croises ; and as 
he had taken Normandy in mortgage from his brother 
Robert, having advanced the Duke of Guienne a sum 
on the same conditions, he was ready to confirm his 
bargain by taking possession, when he was killed in 
hunting by an accidental stroke of an arrow which 
pierced his heart. This accident happened in the 
New Forest, which his father wiA such infinite op- 
pression of the people had made, and in which they 
both delighted extremely. In the same forest the 
Conqueror's eldest son, a youth of great hopes, had 
several years before met his death from the horns of a 
stag ; and these so memorable fates to the same fami- 
ly and in the same place easily inclined men to think 
this a judgment from Heaven : the people consoling 
themselves under their sufferings with these equivo- 
cal marks of the vengeance of Providence upon their 

We have painted this prince in the colors in which 
he is drawn by all the writers who lived the nearest 
to his time. Although the monkish historians, affect- 
e( with the partiality of their character, and with the 
sense of recent injuries, expressed themselves with pas- 
sion concerning him, we have no other guides to fol- 
low. Nothing, indeed, in his life appears to vindicate 

.( I! 


hi8 cl.aractor ; and it makes Htrongly for his disadvan- 
tage, that, without any great end of government, he 
contradicted the prejudices of the age in which he 
lived, the general and common foundation of honor, 
ard thoretty made himself ohnoxious to that body of 
men who had the sole custody of fame, and could 
alone transmit his name with glory or disgrace to 



Henbt, the youngest son of the Conquer- ^, „oa 
or, was hunting at the same time and in the 
same forest in v/hich his brother met his fate. He 
was not long before he came to a resolution of seiz- 
ing on the vacant crown. The order of succession 
had already been brokoii ; the absence of Duke Rob- 
ort, and the concr-rence of many circumstances alto- 
gether resembling those which had been so favorable 
to the late monarch, incited him to a similar attempt. 
To lose no time at a juncture wlien the use of a mo- 
ment is often decisive, he went directly to Winches- 
tar, where the regalia and the treasures of the crown 
were deposited. But the governor, a man of resolu- 
tion, and firmly attached to Robert, positively refused 
to deliver them. Henry, conscious that great enter- 
prises are not to be conducted in a middle course, 
prepared to reduce him by force of arms. During 
this contest, the news of the king's death, and the 
attempts of Henry, drew great numbers of the nobil. 
ity to Winchester, and with them a vast concourse 
of th«> inferior people. To the nobility he set forth 



km II 

'f PJi 


I J 

) h\ 

,.. \ 

) ^ 

liis title to the crown in the most plausible manner 
it could bear : he alleged that he was born after hip 
father had acquired his kingdom, and that he was 
therefore natural heir of the crown ; but that his 
brother was, at best, only born to the inheritance 
of a dukedom. The nobility heard the claim of 
this prince ; but they were more generally inclined 
to Robert, whose birthright, less questionable in it- 
self, had been also confirmed by a solemn treaty. 
But whilst they retired to consult, Henry, well ap- 
prised of their dispositions, and who therefore was 
little inclined to wait the result of their debates, 
threw himself entirely upon the populace. To them 
he said little concerning his title, as he knew sucli 
an audience is little moved with a discussion of 
rights, but much with the spirit and manner in 
which tliey are claimed ; for which reason he be- 
gan by drawing- his sword, and swearing, with a 
bold and determined air, to persist in his preten- 
sions to his last breath. Then turning to the crowd, 
and remitting of his severity, he began to soothe 
them with the promises of a milder government than 
they had experienced either beneath his brother or 
his father ; the Church should enjoy her immunities, 
the people their liberties, the nobles their pleasures ; 
the forest laws should cease ; the distinction of Eng- 
lishman and Norman be heard no more. Next he ex- 
patiated on the grievances of the former reigns, and 
promised to redress them all. Lastly, he spoke of his 
brother Robert, whose dissoluteness, whose inactivi- 
ty, whose "nsteady temper, nay, whose very virtues, 
threatene .lothing but ruin to any country which 
he should govern. The people received this popular 
harangue, delivered by a prince whose person was 




full of grace and majesty, with shouts of joy and 
rapture. Immediately they rush to the house where 
the council is held, which they surround, and with 
clamor and menaces demand Henry for their king. 
The nobility were terrified by the sedition ; and re- 
membering how little present Robert had been on 
a former occasion to his own interests, or to those 
who defended him, they joined their voice to that 
of the people, and Henry was proclaimed without 
opposition. The treasure which he seized he di- 
vided amongst those that seemed wavering in liis 
cause ; and that he might secure his new and dis- 
puted right by every method, he proceeded without 
delay to London to be crowned, and to sanctify by 
the solemnity of the unction the choice of the peo- 
ple. As the churchmen in those days were the ar- 
biters of everything, and as no churchman possessed 
more credit than Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
who had been persecuted and banished by his broth- 
er, he recalled that prelate, and by every mark of con- 
fidence confirmed him in his interests. Two otlicr 
steps he took, equally prudent and politic : he con- 
firmed and enlarged the privileges of the city of 
London, and gave to the whole kingdom a charter 
of liberties, which was tlie first of the kind, and laid 
the foundation of those successive charters whicli at 
last completed the freedom of the subject. In fine, 
he cemented the whole fabric of liis power by mar- 
rying Maud, daughter of Malcolm, King of Scotland, 
by the sister of Edgar Atheling, — thus to insure the 
afi"ection of the English, and, as he flattered himself, 
to have a sure succession to his children. 

The Crusade being successfully finished by the tak- 
ing of Jerusalem, Robert returned into Europe. Ho 






' m 





• ll 



i; 'f 


had acquired great reputation iu tlmt war, in wliicli 
he had no interest ; his real and T^aluable rights he 
prosecuted with languor. Yet such was the respect 
paid to his title, and such the attraction of his per- 
sonal accomplishments, that, when he had at last 
taken possession of his Norman territories, 

A.B.U01. ^^^^ entered England with an army to as- 
sert his birthright, he found most of the Norman 
barons, and many of the English, in readiness to 
join him. But the diligence of Anselm, who em- 
ployed all his credit to keep the people firm to the 
oath they had taken, prevented him from profiting 
of the general inclination in his favor. His friends 
began to fall off by degrees, so that he was induced, 
as well by the situation of his affairs as tiie flexibility 
of his temper, to submit to a treaty on the plan of 
that he had formerly entered into with his brother 

Tliis treaty being made, Robert returned to his 
dukedom, and gave himself over to his natural indo- 
lence and dissipation. Uncured by his mis- 

A.D.110S. ^^j,^mjgg Qf ^ jQQgg generosity that flowed 

indiscriminately on all, he mortgaged every branch of 
his revenue, and almost his whole domain. His bar- 
ons, despising his indigence, and secure in the benig- 
nity of his temper, began to assume the unhappy priv- 
ilege of sovereigns. They made war on each otiier at 
pleasure, and, pursuing their hostilities with the most 
scandalous license, they reduced that fine country 
to a deplorable condition. In vain did tiie people, 
ruined by the tyranny and divisions of the great, 
apply to Robert for protection: neitiier from his 
circumstances nor his character was he able to af- 
ford tiiem any effectual relief; wliilst Henry, who 




by his bribes and artifices kept alive the disorder of 
which he compla" led and profited, formed a party in 
Normandy to call him over, and to put the duke- 
dom under his protection. Accordingly, he prepared 
a considerable force for the expedition, and taxed 
his own subjects, arbitrarily, and without mercy, lor 
the relief he pretended to afford those of his brother. 
His preparations roused Robert from his indolence, 
and united likewise the greater part of his barons 
to his cause, unwilling to change a master whose 
only fault was his indulgence of them for the severe 
vigilance of Henry. The King of France espoused 
the same side ; and even in England some emotions 
were excited in favor of the Duke by indignation for 
the wrongs he had suffered and those he was going 
to suffer. Henry was alarmed, but did not renounce 
his design. He was to the last degree jealous of his 
prerogative ; but knowing what immense resources 
kings may have in popularity, he called on this oc- 
casion a great council of liis barons and prelates, 
and there, by his arts and his eloquence, in both 
which he was powerful, he persuaded the assembly 
to a hearty declaration in his favor, and to a largo 
supply. Thus secured at home, he lost no time to 
pass over to the continent, and to bring ^ ^ ^^^ 
the Norman army to a speedy engage- 
ment. They fought under the walls of Tinchebrai, 
where the bravery and military genius of Robert, 
never more conspicuous than on tliat day, were 
borne down by the superior fortune and numbers 
of his ambitious brother. He was made prisoner ; 
and notwithst 'ding all the tender pleas of their 
common blood, ..• spite of his virtues, and even of 
his misfortunes, which pleaded so strongly for mercy, 



Hi 11 





II i 


the rigid conqueror held him in various prisons until 
his death, wliich did not happen unt=l after a rigor- 
ous confinement of eighteen, some say twenty-seven, 
years. This was the end of a prince born witli a 
thousand excellent qualities, which served no otlier 
purpose than to confirm, from the example of his 
misfortunes, that a facility of disposition and a weak 
benelicence are the greatest vices that can enter in- 
to he composition of a monarch, equally ruinous to 
himself and to his subjects. 

Tlie success of this battle put Henry in 
** "■ ""' possession of Normandy, which he held ever 
after with very little disturbance. He fortified his 
new acquisition by demolishing the castles of those 
turbulent barons who had wasted and afterwards en- 
slaved their country by their dissensions. Order and 
justice took place, until everything was reduced to 
obedience ; then a severe and regular oppression suc- 
ceeded the former disorderly tyranny. In England 
things took the same course. The king no 
4.B.UW. j^jjggj. ^o^bted his fortune, and therefore 
no longer respected his promises or his charter. 
The forests, the savage passion of the Norman 
princes, for which both the prince and people paid 
so dearly, were maintained, increased, and guarded 
with laws more rigorous than before. Taxes were 
largely and arbitrarily assessed. But ?>". this tyr- 
anny did not weaken, though it vexed the nation, 
because the great men were kept in proper sub- 
jection, and justice was steadily administered. 

The politics of this remarkable reign consisted of 
three branches: to redress the gross abuses which 
prevailed in the civil government and the revenue, 
to humble the great barons, and keep the aspiring 



spirit of the clergy within proper bounds. The in- 
troduction of a new law with a new people at the 
Conquest liad unsettled everything: for whilst some 
;. ;" ered to the Conqueror's regulations, and others 
contended for those of St. Edward, neither of them 
were well executed or properly obeyed. The king, 
therefore, with the assistance of his justiciaries, com- 
piled a new body of laws, in order to fmd a temper 
between both. The coin had been miserably debased, 
but it was restored by the king's vigilance, and pre- 
served by punishments, cruel, but terrifying in their 
example. There was a savagencss in all the judi- 
cial pro >edings of those days, that gave even jus- 
tice itself the complexion of tyranny : for whilst a 
number of men were seen in all parts of the knig- 
dom, some castrated, some without hands, others with 
their feet cut off, and in various ways cruelly mai 
gled, the view of a perpetual punishment blottod ou 
the memory of the transient crime, aud government 
was the more odious, which, out of a cruel and ?nis- 
taken mercy, to avoid punishing with death, devised 
torments far more terrible than death itself. 

But nothing called for redress more than the dis- 
orders in the king's own household. It was consid- 
ered as an incident annexed to tlieir tenure, that the 
socage vassals of the crown, and so of all the subor- 
dinate barons, shoald receive their lord and all his 
followers, ar.d sup' 3m in their progresses ond 

journeys, wliich ci continued fo- ^ome ages af- 

ter in Ireland, under um name of coshv. mg. But this 
indefinite and ill-contrived c.iarge on the tenant was 
easily perverted to an instrument of much oppres- 
sion by the disorders of a rude and licentious court ; 
insomuch that the tenants, in fear for their substance, 


^.«i ( !l 





' M 


for the honor of their women, and often for their 
lives, deserted their habitations and fled into the 
woods on the king's approach. No circumstance 
could be more dishonorable to a prince ; but happily, 
like many other great abuses, it gave rise to a great 
reform, which went much further tha*- its immediate 
purposes. This disorder, which the punishment of 
offenders could only palliate, was entirely taken away 
by commuting personal servic" for a rent in money ; 
which regulation, passing from the king to all the in- 
ferior lords, in a short time wrought a great change 
in the state of the nation. To humble the great 
men, more arbitrary methods were used. The ad- 
herence to the title of Robert was a cause, or a pre- 
tence, of depriving many of their vast possessions, 
which were split or parcelled out amongst the king's 
creatures, with great injustice to particulars, but in 
tbe consequences with general and lasting benefit. 
' ..e king held his courts, according to the custom, 
at Christmas and Easter, but he seldom kept both 
festivals in the same place. He made continual prog- 
resses into all parts of his kingdom, and brought 
the royal authority and person home to the doors 
of his haughty barons, which kept them in strict 
obedience during his long and severe reign. 

His contests with the Church, concerning the right 
of investiture, were more obstinate and more dan- 
gerous. As this is an affair that troubled all Europe 
as w3ll as England, and holds deservedly a principal 
place in the story of those times, it will not be imper- 
tinent to trace it up to its original. In the early 
times of Christianity, when religion was only drawn 
from its obscurity to be persecuted, when a bishop 
was only a candidate for martyrdom, neither the pre- 



ferment, nor the right of bestowing it, were sought 
with great ambition. Bishops were then elected, and 
often against their desire, by their clergy and the 
people: the subordinate ecclesiastical districts were 
provided for in the same manner. After the Roman 
Empire became Christian, this usage, so generally es- 
tablished, still maintained its ground. However, m 
the principal cities, the Emperor frequently exercised 
the privilege of giving a sanction to the choice, and 
sometimes of appointing the bishop; though, for the 
most part, the popular election still prevailed. But 
when the Barbarians, after destroying the Empire, 
had at length submitted their necks to the Gospel, 
their kings and great men, full of zeal and gratitude 
to their instructors, endowed the Church with largo 
territories and great privileges. In this case it was 
but natural that they should be the patrons of those 
dignities and nominate to that power which arose 
from their own free bounty. Hence the bishoprics 
in the greatest part of Europe became in effect, what- 
ever some few might have been in appearance, mere- 
ly donative. And as the b.Uioprics formed so many 
seigniories, when the feudal establishment was com- 
pleted, they partook of the feudal nature, so far as 
they were subjects capable of it; homage and fealty 
were required on the part of the spiritual vassal ; 
the king, on his part, gave tlie bishop the investiture, 
or livery and seizin of his temporalities, by the deliv- 
ery of a ring and staff. This was the original manner 
of .^ranting feudal property, and something like it is 
BtiU practised in our base-courts. Pope Adrian con- 
firmed this privilege to Charlemagne by an express 
grant. The clergy of that time, ignorant, but inqms- 
itive, were very ready at finding types and mysteries 



' \ I, 

4 ' 






• [K 




t *T] 







I f 


i\ I 




in eTery ceremony : they constnied the staff into an 
emblem of the pastoral care, and tho ring into a type 
of the bishop's allegorical marriage to his chnrch, 
and therefore supposed them designed as emblems of 
a jurisdiction merely spiritual. The Papal preten- 
sions increased with tho general ignorance and super- 
stition ; and the better to support these pretensions, 
it was necessary at once to exalt the clergy extremely, 
and, by breaking off all ties between them and their 
natural sorereigns, to attach them wholly to the Ro- 
man see. In pursiiance of this project, the Pope first 
strictly forbade the clergy to receive investitures from 
laymen, or to do them homage. A council held at 
Rome entirely condemned this practice ; and the con- 
demnation was the less unpopular, because the in- 
vestiture gave rise to frequent and flagrant abuses, 
especially in England, where the sees were on this 
pretence with much scandal long held in the king's 
iiands, and afterwards as scandalously and publicly 
sold to the highest bidder. So it had been in the last 
reign, and so it continued in this. 

Henry, though vigorously attacked, with great res- 
olution maintained the rights of his crown with re- 
gard to investitures, whilst he saw the Emperor, who 
claimed a right of investing the Pope himself, s\ib- 
dued by the thunder of the Vatican. His chief 
opposition was within his own kingdom. Ansclm, 
Archbishop of Canterbury, a man of unblamable life, 
and of learning for his time, but blindly attached to 
tho rights of the Church, real or su] ^ )sed, refused to 
consecrate those who received investitures from the 
The parties appealed to Rome. Rome, im- 


willing either to recede from her pretensions or to 
provoke a powerful monarch, gives a dubious an- 

rk" ' 



swer. Meanwhile the contest grows hotter, Ansoira 
is obliged to quit the kingdom, but is still inflexible. 
At last, the king, wlio, from the delicate situation of 
his affairs in the beginning of his reign, had been 
obliged to temporize for a long time, by his usual 
prudent mixture of management with force obliged 
the Pope to a temperar -it which seemed extremely 
judicious. The king received homage and fealty 
from his vassal ; the investiture, as it was generally 
understood to relate to spiritual jurisdiction, was 
given up, and on this equal bottom peace was estal>- 
lished. The secret of the Tope's moderation was this : 
he was at that juncture cl<se pressed by the Emperor, 
and it might be highly dangerous to contend with two 
such enemies at once ; and he was much more ready 
to yield to Henry, who had no reciprocal demands on 
him, than to the Emperor, who had many and just 
ones, and to whom he could not yield any one point 
without giving up an infinite number of others very 
material and interesting. 

As the king extricated himself happily from so 
great an affair, so all the other difficulties of his 
reign only exercised, without endangering him. The 
efforts of France in favor of the son of Robert were 
late, desultory, and therefore 'insuccossful. That 
youth, endued with equal virtue and -nore prudence 
than his father, after exerting many useless acts of 
unfortunate bravery, fell in battle, and freed Henry 
from all disturbance on the side of France. The in- 
cursions of the Welsh in this reign only gave him an 
opportunity of confining that people within narrower 
bounds. At home he was well obeyed by his subjects ; 
abroad he dignified his family by splendid alliances. 
His daughter Matilda he married to the Emperor. 


"■\i >; ' 






VOt. VII. 





But his private fortunes did not flow with bo eren a 
course as his public affairs. His only son, 
*••• "*• William, with a natural daughter, and many 
of vhe flower of the young nobility, perished at sea 
hfttwop.n NoraMP<^y »"<* England. From that fatal 
accident the king was never seen to smile. Ho 
sought in vain from a second marriage to provide a 
male successor ; but when he saw all pros- 
**°""" pect of this at an end, he called a great 
council of his barons and prelates. His daughter 
Matilda, after the decease of the Emperor, he had 
given in marriage to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of 
Anjou. As she was his only remaining issue, he 
caused her to be acknowledged as his successor by 
the groat council ; he enforced this acknowledgment 
by solemn oaths of fealty, — a sanction which he 
weakened rather than confirmed by frequent repeti- 
tion: vainly imagining that on his death any ties 
would bind to the respect of a succession so little re- 
spected by himself, and by the violation of which he 
liad procured his crown. Having taken these meas- 
ures in favor of his daughter, he died in Normandy, 
but in a good old age, and in the thirty-sixth year of 
a prosperous reign. 



Although the authority of the crown had 
been exercised with very little restraint dur- 
ing the three preceding reigns, the succession to it, 
or even the principles of the succession, were but ill 
ascertained: so that a doubt might justly have arisen, 


I! '; 




whether the crown was not in a great mcasiuo elec- 
tive. Tliis uncortaiiity ezposed the nation, at the 
death of every king, to all the calamities of a civil 
wur ; but it was a circumstance favorable to the de- 
signs of Stephen, Earl of Boulogne, who was son of 
Stephen, Earl of Blois, by a daughter of the Conquer- 
or. The late king had raised liim to great employ- 
ments, and enriched him by the grant of several 
lordships. His brother had been made Bishop of 
Wuichester; and by adding to it the place of his 
chief justiciary, the king gave him an opportunity of 
becoming one of the richest subjects in Europe, and 
of extending an unlimited influence over the clergy 
and the people. Henry trusted, hv the promotion of 
two persons so near him in blood, and so bound by 
benefits, that he had formed an impenetrable fence 
about the succession ; but he only inspired into Ste- 
phen the design of seizing on tlio crown l)y bring- 
ing him so near it. The oj)portunity was favor- 
able. The king (led abroad; Matilda was absent 
with her husband ; and the Bishop of Winchester, 
by his universal credit, disposed the churchmen to 
elect his brother, with the concurrence of the great- 
est iiart of the nobility, who forgot their oaths, and 
vainly hoped that a bad title would necessarily pro- 
duce a good government. Stephen, in the flower 
of youth, bold, active, and courageous, full of gener- 
osity and a no^ le affab'''=ty, that seemed to reproach 
the state and avarice c .lie preceding kings, was not 
wanting to his fortune. He seized immediately the 
immense treasures of Henry, and by distributing 
them with a judicious profusion removed all doubts 
concerning his title to them. He did not spare even 
the roynl demesne, but secured himself a vast number 





. tl 


1 1 




of adherents by involving their guilt r.nd interest in 
his own. He raised a considcrahlo army of Flem- 
ings, in order to strengthen himself against anotlicr 
turn of the same instability wliich had raised hnn to 
the throne ; and, in imitation of the measures of the 
late king, ho concluded all by giving a charter of lib- 
erties as ample as the people at that time aspired to. 
This charter contained a renunciation of the forests 
made by his predecessor, a grant to the ecclesiastici 
of a jurisdiction over their own vassals, and to the 
people la general an immunity from unjust tallages 
and exactions. It is remarkable, that the oath of al- 
legiance taken by the nobility on this occasion was 
conditional • it was to be observed so long as the king 
observed ' of his charter,— a condition which 

added no 'ty to the rights of the subject, 

but which p. utful source of dissension, tu- 

mult, and civil . . -e. , . , . a 

The measures which the king hitherto pursued 
were dictated hj sound policy ; but he took another 
step to secure his throne, which in fact took away all 
its security, and at the same time brouglit tlie coun- 
try to extreme misery, and to the brink of utter ruin. 
At the Conquest there were very few fortifications 
in the kingdom. William found it necessary for his 
sccuritv to erect several. During the struggles of the 
English, the Norman nobility were permitted (as in 
rea-^on it could not be refused) to fortify their own 
houses. It was, however, still understood that no 
new fortress could be erected without the king's spe- 
cial license. These private castles began very early 
to embarrass the government. The royal castles were 
scarcely less troublesome : for, as everything was then 
in tenure, the governor held his place by the tenure 


:?' ! 



of cMtlo-guard ; and thus, instead of a simple officer, 
subject to his pleasure, the king had to deal with a 
feudal tenant, secure against him by law, if he per- 
formed his services, and by force, if he was unw.llmg 
to perform them. Every resolution of government re- 
quired a sort of civil war to put it in execution. The 
two last kings had taken and demolished several of 
these castles ; but when they found the reduction of 
any of them difficult, their custom frequently was, to 
erect another close by it, tower against tower, ditch 
against ditch: these were called Malvoi^uis, Irom 
their purpose and situation. Thus, instead of re- 
moving, they in fact doubled the mischief. Stephen, 
perceiving the passion of the barons for these cas- 
tles, among other popular acts in the beginning of his 
reign, gave a general license for erecting them. Ihen 
was seen to arise in every corner of the kingdom, in 
every petty seigniory, an inconceivable miiltitudo of 
strongholds, the seats ol violence, and the receptacles 
of murderers, felons, debasers of the coin, and all 
mmner of desperate and abandoned villains. Eleven 
hundred and fifteen of these castles were built in this 
single reign. The barons, having thus shut out the 
law, made continual inroads upon each other, and 
spread war, rapine, burning, and desolation through- 
out the whole kingdom. Tlicy infested the high- 
roads, and put a stop to all trade by plundering the 
merchants and travellers. Those who dwelt m the 
open country they forced into tlieir castles, and after 
pillaging them of all their visible substance, these ty- 
rants held them in dungeons, and tortured them with 
a thousand cruel inventions to extort a discovery of 
their hidden wealth. The lair ^ntablo representation 
given by history of those barbarous times justifies the 













pictures in the old romances of the castles of giants 
and magicians. A great part of Europe was in the 
same deplorable condition. It was then that somo 
gallant spirits, struck with a generous indignation at 
the tyranny of these miscreants, blessed solemnly by 
the bishop, and followed by the praises and vows of 
the people, sallied forth to vindicate the chastity of 
women and to redress the wrongs of travellers and 
peaceable men. The adventurous humor inspired by 
the Crusade heightened and extended this spirit; and 
thus the idea of knight-errantry was formed. 

Stephen felt personally these inconven- 
*'°"^" iences; but because the evil was too stub- 
born to be redressed at once, he resolved to proceed 
gradually, and to begin with the castles of the bish- 
ops,— as they evidently held them, not only against 
the interests of the crown, but against the canons 
of the Church. From the nobles he expected no 
opposition to this design : they beheld with envy the 
pride of these ecclesiastical fortresses, whose battle- 
ments seemed to insult the poverty of the lay barons. 
This disposition, and a want of unanimity among the 
clergy themselves, enabled Stephen to succeed in his 
attempt against the Bishop of Salisbury, one of the 
first whom he attacked, and whose castles, from their 
strength and situation, were of the greatest impor- 
tance. But the affairs of this prince were so circum- 
stanced that he could pursue no council that was not 
dangerous. His breach with the clergy let in the par- 
ty of his rival, Matilda. This party was supported by 
Robert, Earl of Gloucester, natural son tc the late king, 

a man powerful by his vast possessions, but more 

formidable through his popularity, and the courage and 
abilities by which he had acquired it. Several othei 



circumstances weakened the cause of Stephen. The 
charter, and the other favorable acts, the scaffoldnig 
of his ambition, wlien he saw the structure raised, he 
threw down and contemned. In order to mauitani 
his troops, as well as to attach men to his cause, 
where no principle bound tlicm, vast and continual 
largesses became necessary : all his legal revenue had 
been dissipated; and he was therefore obliged to 
have recourse to such methods of raising money as 
were evidently illegal, ^^hese causes every day gave 
Bome accession of strength to the party agamst him ; 
the friends of Matilda were encouraged to ^ „ „3^ 
appear in arms ; a civil war ensued, long 
and bloody, prosecuted as chance or a blind rage di- 
rected, by mutual acts of cruelty and treachery, by 
frequent surprisals and assaults of castles, and by a 
number of battles and skirmishes fought to no de- 
terminate end, and in which nothing of the military 
art appeared, but the destruction which it caused. 
Various, on this occasion, were the reverses of for- 
tune, while Stephen, though embarrassed by the weak- 
ness of his title, by the scantiness of his finances, and 
all the disorders which arose from both, supported 
his tottering throne with wonderful activity and cour- 
age ; but being at length defeated and made ^ ^ „,j_ 
prisoner under the walls of Lincoln, the 
clergy openly declare for Matilda. The city of Lon- 
don, though unwillingly, follows the example of the 
clergy. The defection from Stephen was growing uni- 
versal. . , 

But Matilda, puffed up with a greatness which as 
yet had no solid foundation and stood merely in per- 
sonal favor, shook it in the minds of all men by as- 
suming, together with the insolence of conquest, the 








••) f 









haughty rigor of an established dominiou. Her title 
appeared but too good in the resemblance she bore 
to the pride of the former kings. This made the first 
ill success in her affairs fatal. Her great support, 
the Earl of Gloucester, was in his turn made pi'is- 
oner. In exchange for his liberty that of Stephen 
was procured, who renewed the war with his usual 
vigor. As he apprehendoi an attempt from Scot- 
land in favor of Matilda, li. cended from the blood 
royal of that nation, to b^, 'je this \vuiglit, he per- 
suaded the King of France to declare in his favor, 
alarmed as he was by the progress of Henry, the 
son of Matilda, and Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. This 
prince, no more than sixteen years of age, after re- 
ceiving knighthood from David, King of Scotland, 
began to display a courage and capacity destined to 
the greatest things. Of a complexion which strongly 
inclined to pleasure, he listened to nothing but am- 
bition ; at an age which is usually given up to pas- 
sion, he submitted delicacy to politics, and even in 
his marriage only remembered the interests of a sov- 
ereign, — for, without examining too scrupulously in- 
to her character, he married Eleanor, the heiress of 
Guienne, though divorced from her husband for her 
supposed gallantries in the Holy Land. He made use 
of the accession of power which he acquired by this 
match to assert his birthright to Normandy. This 
he did with great success, because he was favored by 
the general inclination of the people for the blood of 
their ancient lords. Flushed with this prosperous 
beginning, he aspired to greater things ; he obliged 
the King of France to submit to a truce ; and then 
he turned his arms to support the rights of his family 
in England, from whence Matilda retired, unequal to 





the troublesome part she had loug acted. ^\ orn out 
with ago, and the clabhh.g of furious factious, she 
shut herself up iu a monastery, and left to her son the 
succession of a civil war. Stephen was now pressed 
with renewed vigor. Henry had rather the advan- 
tage in the field ; Stephen had the possession of the 
government. Their fortunes appearing nearly bal- 
anced, and the fuel of dissension being consumed by 
a continual and bloody war of thirteen years, an 
accommodation was proposed and accepted. Henry 
found it dangerous to refuse ^nsent, as the bish- 

ops and barons, even of hit arty, dreaded the 

consequences, if a prince, in .. prime of an ambi- 
tious youth, should establish an hereditary title by 
the force of foreign arms. This treaty, ^ „.„j3. 
signed at Wallingford, left the possession 
of the crown for his life to Stephen, but secured 
the succession to Henry, whom that prince adopted. 
The castles erected in this reign were to be demol- 
ished ; the exorbitant grants of the royal demesne to 
be resumed. To the son of Stephen all his private 
possessions were secured. 

Thus ended this tedious and ruinous civil war. 
Stephen survived it near two years ; and now, find- 
ing himself more secure as the lawful tenant than he 
had been as the usurping proprietor of the crown, he 
no longer governed on the maxims of necessity. He 
made no new attempts in favor of his family, but 
spent the remainder of his reign in correcting the 
disorders which arose from his steps in its commence- 
ment, and in healing the wounds of bO long and cruel 
a war. Tims he left the kingdom in peace to his 
successor, but his character, as it is usual where 
party is concerned, greatly disputed. Wherever 

t' .1! 






his natural dispositions had room to exert them- 
selves, they appeared virtuous and princely ; but 
the lust to reign, which often attends great virtues, 
was fatal to his, frequently hid them, and always nn- 
dered them suspected. 



The death of Stephen left an undisputed 
succession for the first time since the death 
of Edward the Confessor. Henry, descended equally 
from the Norman Conqueror and the old English 
king«, adopted by Stephen, acknowledged by the 
barons, united in himself every kind of title. It 
was grown into a custom for the king to grant a 
charter of liberties on his accession to the crown. 
Henry also granted a charter of th.t kind, confirm- 
ing that of his grandfather ; but as liis situation was 
very different from that of his predecessors, his char- 
ter was different, — reserved, short, dry, conceived in 
general terms, — a gift, not a bargain. And, indeed, 
there seems to have been at that juncture but little 
occasion to limit a power which seemed not more 
than sufficient to correct all the evils of an unlimited 
liberty. Henry spent the beginning of his reign in 
repairing the ruins of the royal authority, and in re- 
storing to tlie kingdom peace and order, along with 
its ancient limits ; and he may well be considered as 
tlie restorer of the English monarchy. Stephen had 
sacrificed tlie demesne of the crown, and many of its 
rights, to his subjects ; and the necessity of the times 



obliged both that prince and the Empress Matilda to 
purchase, in their turns, the precarious friendship of 
the King of Scotland by a cession of almost all the 
country north of the Humber. Bnt Henry obliged 
the King of Scotland to restore his acquisitions, and 
to renew his homage. Ho took the same methods 
with his barons. Not sparing the grants of his 
mother, he resumed what had been so lavishly 
squandered by both of the contending parties, who, 
to establish their claims, had given away almost 
everything that made them valuable. There never 
was a prince in Europe who better understood the 
advantages to be derived from its peculiar constitu- 
tion, in which greater acquisitions of dominion are 
made by judicious marriages than by success in war: 
for, having added to his patrimonial territories of An- 
iou and Normandy the Duchy of Guienne by his own 
marriage, the male issue of the Dukes of Brittany 
failing, he took the opportunity of marrying ^ ^ ^^^ 
his third son, Geoffrey, then an infant, to 
the heiress of that important province, an infant also ; 
and thus uniting by so strong a link his northern to 
his southern dominions, he possessed in lus own name, 
or in those of his wife and son, all that fine and ex- 
vonsive country that is washed by the Atlantic Ocean, 
from Picardy quite to the foot of the Pyrenees. 

Henry, possessed of such extensive torritories, and 
aiming at further acquisitions, saw with indignation 
that the sovereign authority in all of them, especially 
in England, had been great .y diminished. By his 
resumptions he had, indeed, lessened the greatness 
of several of the nobility. He had by force of arms 
reduced those who forcibly held the crown lands, 
and deprived them of their own estates for their 



. ' 

ilk ■ - ', 








'$.' \ 


rebellion. He demolished many castles, those per- 
petual resources of rebellion and disorder. But the 
great aim of his policy was to break the power of 
ihe clergy, which each of his predecessors, since Ed- 
ward, had alternately strove to raise and to depress, 
— at first in order to gain that potent body to their 
interests, and then to preserve them in subjection 
to the authority which they had conferred. The 
clergy had elected Steplien ; tliey had deposed Ste- 
phen, and elected Matilda ; and in the instruments 
which they used on these occasions they affirmed 
in themselves a general right of electing the kings 
of England. Their share both in the elevation and 
depression of that prince showed that they possessed 
a power inconsistent with the safety and dignity 
of the state. The immunities which they enjoyed 
seemed no less prejudicial to the civil economy, — 
and the rather, as, in the confusion of Stephen's 
reign, many, to protect themselves from the pre- 
vailing violence of the time, or to sanctify their own 
disorders, had taken refuge in the clerical character. 
The Church was never so full of scandalous per- 
sons, who, being accountable only in the ecclesiastical 
courts, where no crime is pimished with death, were 
guilty of every crime. A priest had about this time 
committed a murder attended with very aggravat- 
ing circumstances. The king, willing at once to 
restore order and to depress the clergy, laid hold 
of this favorable opportunity to convoke the cause to 
his own court, when the atrociousness of the crime 
made all men look with an evil eye upon the claim 
of any privilege which might prevent the severest 
justice. The nation in general seemed but little 
inclined to controvert so useful a regulation with 
so potent a prince. 



Amidst this general ncqiiicsccnce one man was 
found bold enougli to oppose him, who for eight 
years together embroiled all his affairs, poisoned his 
satisfactions, endangered his dominions, and at lengtli 
in his death triumphed over all the power and policy 
of this wise and potent monarch. This was Thomas 
fl-Becket, a man memorable for the great glory and 
the bitter reproaches he has met with from posterity. 
This person was the son of a rcspcctal)lo citizen of 
London. He was bred to the study of the civil and 
canon law, the education then used to qualify a man 
for public affairs, in which he soon made a distin- 
guished figure. By the royal favor and his own abil- 
ities he rose, in a rapid succession through several 
considerable employments, from an office under the 
sheriff of London, to be High Chancellor of the king- 
dom. In this high post he showed a spirit as ele- 
vated ; but it was rather a military spirit than that 
of the gownman, — magnificent to excess in his liv- 
ing and appearance, and distinguishing himself m 
the tournaments and other martial sports of that age 
with much ostentation of courage and expense. The 
king, who favored him greatly, and expected a suit- 
able return, on the vacancy, destined Becket, yet a 
laymivn, to the see of Canterbury, and hoped to find 
iu him a warm promoter of the reformation he in- 
tended. Hardly a priest, he was made the ^ ^^^^^ 
first prelate in the kingdom. But no sooner 
was he invested with the clerical character than the 
whole tenor of his conduct was seen to change all at 
once : of his pompous retinue a few plain servants 
only remained ; a monastic temperance regulated his 
table ; and his life, in all respects formed to the most 
rigid austerity, seemed to prepare him for that supe- 











riority he was resolved to .issumc, and the conflicts he 
foresaw he must undergo in this attempt. 

It will not be unpleasing to pause a moment at this 
remarkable period, in order to view in what consisted 
that greatness of the clergy, which enabled them to 
bear so very considerable a sway in all public affairs, 
— what foundations supported the weight of so vast a 
power, — whence it had its origin, — what was the 
nature, and what the ground, of the immunities they 
claimed, — that we may the more fully enter into this 
important controversy, and may not judge, as some 
have inconsiderately done, of the affairs of those 
times by ideas taken from the present manners and 

It is sufficiently known., that the first Christians, 
avoiding the Pagan tribunals, tried most even of their 
civil causes before the bishop, who, though be haa 
no direct coercive power, yet, wielding the sword 
of excommunication, had wherewithal to enforce the 
execution of his judgments. Thus the bishop had 
a considerable sway in temporal affairs, even before 
he was owned by the temporal power. But tlie Em- 
perors no sooner became Christian than, the idea 
of profaneness being removed from the secular tri- 
bunals, the causes of the Christian laity naturally 
passed to that resort where those of tlie generality 
had been before. But the reverence for the bishop 
still remained, and the remembrance of his former 
jurisdiction. It was not thought decent, that he, 
who had been a judge in ' own court, should be- 
come a suitor in the court of another. The body 
of the clergy likewise, who were supposed to have 
no secular concerns for which they could litigate, 
and removed by their character from all suspicion 



ofTiolenccwere left to be tried by their own eccle- 
siastical superiors. This was, with a httlc vanat.on 
Bometimes in extending, sometimes in restrainrng he 
bishops' jurisdiction, the condition of thmgs wh st 
the Roman Empire subsisted. But though their im- 
munities were great and their possessions "'"I' «. M 
living under an absohite form of government, they 
were powerful only by inflnenee. No jur.sdictio.i. 
were annexed to tlieir lands ; they had no place in 
the senate ; they were no order in the state. 

From th; settlement of tlie Northern naUons the 
clcrkv must be considered in anotlicr light. Iho 
Barbarians gave them large landed possessions ; and 
by giving them land, they gave them jurisdiction, 
which, according to their notions was inscparab e 
from it. They made them an u.dcr m the state, 
and as all the orders had their privileges, the clergy 
had theirs, and were no less steady to preserve and 
ambitious to extend them. Our ancestors having 
united tlie Church dignities to the secular d.gmties 
of baronies, had so blend:d the ecclesiastica with 
the temporal power in the same persons that it 
became almost impossible to separate them. The 
ecclesiastical was, however, prevalent "\tl^^« com- 
position, drew to it the other, supported it and was 
sZorted by it. But it was not the devotion only, 
but the necessity of the times, that raised the clergy 
to the excess of this greatness. Tlie little learmng 
which then subsisted remained wholly in their hands 
Few among tlie laity could even read; consequently 
the clergy alone were proper for public affairs, lliey 
were the statesmen, they were the lawyers ; from 
them were often taken the bailiffs of the seigneunal 
courts, sometimes the sheriffs of counties, and almost 




. ) ;.i 

i V 






I •! 




constantly the justiciaries of the kingdom.* Tlio Xor- 
man kings, always jealous of their order, were always 
forced to employ them. In pbbeys the law was stud- 
ied ; abbeys were the palladiums of the public liber- 
ty by the cusody of the '-oval charters and most of 
the records. Thus, necoi " to the great by their 
knowledge, vGncral)le to tno poor by their hospitality, 
dreadful to all by the power of excommunication, the 
character of the clergy was exalted above everything 
in the state ; and it could no more bo otherwise in 
tho'^e days than it is possilile it should bo so in ours. 

William the Conqueror made it one principal point 
of hi" politics to reduce the clergy ; but all the steps 
hj took in it were not equally well calculated to an- 
swer this intention. When ho subjected the Church 
lands to military service, the clergy complained bitter- 
ly, as it lessened their revenue : but I imagine it did 
not lessen their power in proportion ; for by tliis regu- 
lation they came, like other great lords, to have their 
military vassals, who owed them homage and fealty : 
and this rather increased their consideration amongst 
so martial a people. The kings who succeeded him, 
though they also aimed at reducing the ecclesiastical 
power, never pursued their scheme on a great or 
legislative principle. They seemed rather desirous of 
enriching tliemsclves by the abuses in the Church 
than earnest to correct them. One day they plundered 
and the next day they founded monasteries, as their 
rapaciousness or their scruples chanced to predomi- 
nate ; so that every attempt of that kind, having rather 
the air of tyranny than reformation, cotild never be 
heartily approved or seconded by the body of the 

* Seld. Tithes, p. 483. 



The bishops must always be considered in the 
double capacity of dorks and barons. Tlieir courts, 
therefore, had a double jurisdiction : over the clergy 
and laity of their diocese for the cognizance of crimes 
against ecclesiastical law, and over the vassals of their 
barony as lords paramount. But these two depart- 
ments, so different in their nature, they frequently 
confounded, by making use of the spiritual woapon 
of excommunication to enforce the judgments of 
both ; and this sentence, cutting oflf the party from 
the common society of mankind, lay equally heavy on 
all ranks : for, as it deprived the lower sort of the 
fellowship of their equals and the protection of their 
lord, so it deprived the lord of the services of his 
vassals, whether he or they lay under the sentence. 
This was one of the grievances which the king pro- 
posed to redress. 

As some sanction of religion is mixed with almost 
every concern of civil life, and as the ecclesiastical 
court took cognizance of all religious matters, it drew 
to itself not only all questions relat' to tithes and 
advowsons, but whatever related to marriages, wills, 
the estate of intestates, the breaches of oaths and 
contracts, — in a word, everything which ''id not 
touch life or feudal property. 

The ignorance of the bailiffs in lay courts, who 
were only possessed of some feudal maxims and the 
traditions of an uncertain custom, made this recourse 
to the spiritual courts the more necessary, where they 
could judge with a little more exactness by the lights 
of the canon and civil laws. 

This jurisdiction extended itself by connivance, by 
necessity, by custom, by abuse, over lay persons and 
affairs. But the immunity of the clergy from lay cop- 



TOL. Vll. 



I i 


\ I 



nizaiicos was claimed, not ouly as a privilege essential 
to the dignity of thoir order, supiwrtcd by thn canons, 
and countenanced l.y tho Roman law, but as a right 
confirmed by all the ancient laws of England. 

Christianity, coming into England out of the bosom 
of the Roman Empire, brought along with it all those 
ideas of immunity. The fubt trace we ca.i find of 
this exemption from lay jurisdiction in England is 
in the laws of Ethelred ;* it is more fully established 
in those of Canute ; f but in the code of Uenry I. it is 
twice distinctly affirnieJ4 This immunity from the 
secular jurisdiction, whilst it seemed to encourage 
acts of violence in the clergy towards others, encour- 
aged also the violence of others against them. The 
murder of a clerk could not be punished at this time 
by death; it was against a spiritual person, un offeiKO 
wholly spiritual, of which the secular courts took no 
sort of cognizance. In the Saxon times two circum- 
stances made such an exemption less a cause of jeal- 
ousy : the sheriflF sat with the bishop, and tlio spiritual 
jurisdiction was, if not under the control, at least 
under the inspection of the lay officer ; and then, as 
neither laity nor clergy were capitally punished for 
any ofience, this privilege did not create so invidious 
and glaring a distinction between them. Such was 
the power of the clergy, and such the immunities, 
which the king proposed to diminish. 
Becket, who had punished the ecclesiastic for his 

• LL. Ethelred. Si pre»byter homicida fieret, &c. 

t LL. Cnnti. 38, De Ministro Altaris Homicida. Idem, 40, De 

Ordinato Capitis reo. 

t LL H I 57, D« Querela Vicinornm; and 56 [681]. Vt uroi- 
nato qui Vitam forisfaciat, in Feed. Alurcd. et Gnthurn., apnd Sp.1- 
ConciL 376, Ut yoI. ; LL. Edw. et Guthum., 3, De Correcuona Ordx- 





crime by ecclesiastical law, refused to 'loliv - oTor 

to the secular judges for furthc- ; Jimcnt, ou the 
priuciplo of law, that no raau ought to ho twice ques- 
tioned for the same oflbuce. The king, pro- ^^ ^^^ 
voked at this opposition, summoiiod a coun- 
cil of the barons and l)ishop8 at Clarendon ; and licro, 
amongst oth'-rs of less moment, the following were 
unanimously declared to he tlio ancient prerogatives 
of the crown. And it is something reraarkalde, and 
certainly makes much fof the honor of their modera- 
tion, that the bishops and abbots who mu t have cona- 
jtosed 80 large and weighty a part of the great councU 
seem not only to have made no opposition to regu- 
lations which 80 remarkably contracted their juris- 
diction, but even seem to have forwarded them. 

Ibt. A clerk accused of any crime shall api)ear in 
the king's court, that it may be judged whether he 
belongs to ecclesiastical or secular cognizance. If 
to the former, a deputy shall go into the bishop's 
court to observe the trial ; if the clerk bo convicted, 
he shall be delivered over to the king's justiciary to 
be punished. 

2nd. All causes concerning presentation, all caus- 
es concerning Frankalmoign, all actions concerning 
breach of faith, shall be tried in the king's court. 

8rd. The king's tenant in capite shall not be ex- 
communicated without the king's license. 

4th. No clerk shall go out of the kingdom without 
giving security that he will do nothing to the preju- 
dice of the king or nation. And all appeals shall be 
tried at home. 

These are the most material of the Constitutions or 
Assizes of Clarendon, famous for having been the first 
legal check given to the power of the clergy in Eng- 

* t I 
¥.1 \ 

h'- 1 



'I \ 








land. To give these constitutions the greater weight, 
it was thought proper that they should be confirmed 
by a bull from the Pope. By this step the king 
seemed to doubt the entireness of his own authority 
in his dominions ; and by calling in foreign aid when 
it served his purpose, he gave it a <brce and a sort of 
legal sanction when it came to be employed agauist 
himself. But as no negotiation had prepared the 
Pope in favor of laws designed in reality to abridge 
his own power, it was no wonder that he r^ected 
them with indignation. Becket, who had not been 
prevailed on to accept them but with infinite re- 
luctance, was no sooner apprised of the Pope's dis- 
approbation than he openly declared his own ; he 
did penance in the humblest manner for his former 
acquiescence, and resolved to make amends for it by 
opposing the new constitutions with the utmost zeal. 
In this disposition the king saw that the Archbishop 
might be more easily ruined than humbled, and his 
ruin was resolved. Immediately a number of suits, 
on various pretences, were commenced against him, in 
every one of which he was sure to be foiled ; but these 
making no deadly blow at his fortunes, he was called 
to account for thirty thousand pounds which he was 
accused of having embezzled during his chancellor- 
ship. It was in vain that he pleaded a full acquit- 
tance from the king's son, and Richard de Lucy, the 
guardian and justiciary of the kingdom, on his resig- 
nation of the seals ; he saw it was already determined 
against him. Far from yielding under these repeated 
blows, he raised still higher the ecclesiastical preten- 
sions, now become necessary to his own protection. 
He refused to answer to the charge, and appealed to 
the Pope, to whom alone he seemed to acknowledge 




any real subjection. A great ferment ensued on tins 
appeal. The courtiers advised that he should be 
thrown into prison, and that his temporalities should 
be seized. The bishops, willing to reduce Becket 
without reducing their own order, proposed to accuse 
him before the Pope, and to pursue him to degrada- 
tion. Some of his friends pressed him to give up his 
cause ; others urged him to resign his dignity. The 
king's servants threw out menaces against his life. 
Amidst this general confusion of passions and coun- 
cils, whilst every one according to his mterests expect- 
ed the event with much anxiety, Becket, in the dis- 
guise of a monk, escaped out of the nation, and threw 
himself into the arms of the King of France. 

Henry was greatly alarmed at this secession, which 
put the Archbishop out of his power, but left him in 
full possession of all his ecclesiastical weapons. An 
embassy was immediately dispatched to Rome, in 
order to accuse Becket ; but as Becket pleaded the 
Pope's own cause before the Pope himself, he ob- 
tained an easy victory over the king's ambassadors. 
Henry, on the other hand, took every measure to 
maintain his authority: he dli everything worthy 
of an able politician, and of a king tenacious of his 
just authority. He likewise took measures not only 
to humble Becket, but also to lower that chair whose 
exaltation liad an ill influence on the throne : for ho 
encouraged the Bishop of London to revive a claim to 
the primacy ; and thus, by making the rights of the 
see at least dubious, he hoped to render future prel- 
ates more cautious in the exercise of them. He 
inhibited, under the penalty of high treason, all ec- 
clesiastics from going out of his dominions witliout 
Ucense, or any emissary of the Pope's or Archbishop'a 








'1 i 





'} V 

ipit j^i 


from entering them with letters of excommunication 
or mterdict. And that he might not supply arms 
against himself, the Peter-pence were collected with 
the former care, but detained in the royal treasury, 
that matter might be left to Rome both for hope and 
fear. In the personal treatment of Becket all the 
proceedings were full of ang^.-, and by an unneces- 
sary and unjust severity greatly discredited both the 
cause and character of the king ; for he stripped of 
their goods and banished all the Archbishop's kin- 
dred, all who were in any sort connected with him, 
without the least regard to sex, age, or condition. 
In the mean time, Becket, stung with these affronts, 
impatient of his banishment, and burning with all 
the fury and the same zeal which had occasioned it, 
continually threatened the king with the last ex- 
ertions of ecclesiastical power ; and all things were 
thereby, and by the absence and enmity of the head 
of the English Church, kept in great confusion. 

During this unhappy contention several treaties 
were set on foot ; but the disposition of all the par- 
ties who interested themselves in this quarrel very 
much protracted a determination in favor of either 
side. With regard to Rome, the then Pope was Al- 
exander the Third, one of the wisest prelates who 
had ever governed that see, and the most zealous for 
extending its authority. However, though incessant- 
ly solicited by Becket to excommunicate the king and 
to lay the kingdom under an interdict, he was unwill- 
ing to keep pace with the violence of that enraged 
bishop. Becket's view was single ; but the Pope had 
many things to consider : an Antipope then subsist- 
ed, who was strongly supported by the Emperor ; and 
Henry had actually entered into a negotiation with 



this Emperor and this pretended Pope. On the other 
hand, the king knew that the lower sort of people in 
Engknd were generally affected to the Archbishop 
and much under the influence of the clergy. He 
was therefore fearful to drive the Pope to extremi- 
ties by wholly renouncing his authority. These dis- 
positions in the two principal powers made way for 
several conferences leading to peace. But for a long 
time all their endeavors seemed rather to inflame than 
to allay the quarrel. Whilst the ting' «f ^^y^" .f , 
Berting his rights, remembered with bitterness tl^ 
Archblhop's opposition, and whilst the Archbishop 
^Itained the claims of the Church with an haugh i- 
ness natural to him, and which was only augmented 
by his sufferings, the King of France appeared some- 
times to fo . -ird, sometimes to perplex the nego a- 
IZ a c J luplicity seemed to be dictated by the 
rituatio of . affairs. He was desirous of nourish- 
ing a qu ■■ •■ *^Wcb put so redoubted a vassal on the 
defensle; but he was also justly fearful of driving 
:o powerflxl a prince to forget that lie was a • 
All parties, however, wearied at length with a contest 
^ which il were distracted, and which m its issue 
promised nothing favorable to any of ttiem, yielded at 
length to an accommodation, founded rather on an 
oblMon and silence of past disputes than on the set- 
tlement of terms for preserving future tranquillity 
Becket returned in a sort of triumph to his see 
Many of the dignifled clergy, and not a few of the 
barons, lay under excommunication for the share 
they had in his persecution; but, "either broken by 
adversity nor softened by good fortune, he relented 
nothing of his severity, but referred them all for then^ 
absoluuon to the Pope. Their resentments were re- 








t ' 


vived with additional bitterness ; new affronts were 
offered to the Archbishop, which brought on new 
excommunications and interdicts. The contention 
thickened on all sides, and things seemed running 
prccipifcAtely to the former dangerous extremities, 
when tl'.J account of these contests was brought, 
with much aggravation against Becket, to the ears of 
the king, then in Normandy, who, foreseeing a new 
series of troubles, broke out in a violent passion of 
grief and anger, — "I nave no friends, or I had not 
so long been insulted by this haughty priest ! " Four 
knights who attended near hk person, thinking that 
the complaints of a king are orders for revenge, and 
hoping a reward equal to the importance and even 
guilt of the service, silently departed ; and passing 
with great diligence into England, in a short time 
they arrived at Canterbury. They entered the cathe- 
dral ; they fell on the Archbishop, just on the point 
of celebrating divine service, and with repeated blows 
of their clubs they beat him to the ground, they broke 
his skull in pieces, and covered the altar with his 
blood and brains. 

The horror of this barbarous action, in- 
creased by the sacredness of the person who 
suffered and of the place where it was committed, 
diffused itself on all sides with incredible rapidity. 
The clergy, in whose cause he fell, equalled him to 
the most holy martyrs ; compassion for his fate made 
all men forget his faults ; and the report of frequent 
miracles at his tomb sanctified his cause and charac- 
ter, and threw a general odium on the king. What 
became of the murderers is uncertain : they were nei- 
ther protected by the king nor punished by the laws, 
for the reason we have not long since mentioned. 

A. D. un. 




The king with infinite difficulty extricated himself 
from the consequences of this murder, which threat- 
ened, under the Pupd banners, to arm all Europe 
against him; nor was he absolved, but by renoun- 
cing the most material parts of the Constitutions of 
Clarendon, by purging himself upon oath of the mur- 
der of Becket, by doing a very humiliating penance 
at his tomb to expiate the rash words which had 
given occasion to his death, and by engaging to fur- 
nish a large sum of money for the relief of the Holy 
Land, and taking the cross himself as soon as his 
affairs should admit it. The king probably thought 
his freedom from the haughtiness of Becket cheap- 
ly purchased by these condescensions: and without 
question, though Becket might have been justifiable, 
perhaps even laudable, for his steady mamteuance 
of the privileges which his Church and his order 
had acquired by the care of his predecessors, and of 
which he by his place was the depository, yet the 
principles upon which he supported tliese privileges, 
subversive of all good government, his extravagant 
ideas of Church power, the schemes he meditated, 
even to his death, to extend it yet further, his violent 
and unreserved attachment to the Papacy, and that 
inflexible spirit which all his virtues rendered but the 
more dangerous, made his death as advantageous, at 
that time, as the means by which it was effected were 
sacrilegious and detestable. 

Between the death of Becket and the king's abso- 
lution he resolved on the execution of a design by 
which he reduced under his dominion a country n-^t 
more separated from the rest of Europe by its situa- 
tion than by the laws, customs, and way of life of the 
inhabitants: for the people of Ireland, with no differ- 





I. t 




' » i 


ence but that of religion, stiU retained the native 
manners of the original CeltJB. The king had medi- 
tated this design from the very beginning of his reign, 
and had obtained a bull from the then Pope, Adrian 
the Fourth, an Englishman, to authorize the attempt. 
He well knew, from the internal weakness and ad- 
vantageous situation of this noble island, the easiness 
and importance of such a conquest. But at this par- 
ti.^.ular time he was strongly urged to his engaging 
personally in the enterprise by two other powerful 
motives. For, first, the murder of Becket had bred 
very ill humors in his subjects, the chiefs of whom, 
always impatient of a long peace, were glad of any 
pretence for rebellion; it was therefore expedient, 
and serviceable to the crown, to find an employment 
abroad for this spirit, which could not exert itself 
without being destructive at home. And next, as he 
had obtained the grant of Ireland from the Pope, 
upon condition of subjecting it to Peter-pence, he 
knew that the speedy performance of this condition 
would greatly facilitate his recovering the good graces 
of the court of Rome. Before we give a short narra- 
tive of the reduction of Ireland, I propose to lay open 
to the reader the state of that kingdom, that wo may 
see what grounds Henry had to hope for success m 

this expedition. , j t xl 

Ireland is about half as largfc as England. In the 
temperature of the climate there is little difierence, 
other than that more rain falls ; as the country is 
more mountainous, and exposed full to the westerly 
wind, which, blowing from the Atlantic Ocean, pre- 
vails during the greater part of the year. This moist- 
ure, as it has enriched tlie country with large and 
frequent rivers, and spread out a number of fair and 




magnificent lakes beyond the proportion of other plsr 
ces, has on the other hand incumbered the island 
with an uncommon multitude of bogs and morasses ; 
80 that in general it is less praised for corn than pas- 
turage, in which no soil is more rich and luxuriant. 
Whilst it possesses these internal means of wealth, it 
opens on all sides a great number of ports, spacious 
and secure, and by their advantage >• .s situation in- 
viting to universal commerce. But on these ports, 
better known than those of Britain in the time of the 
Romans, at this time there were few towns, scarce 
any fortifications, and no trade that deserves to be 

The people of Ireland lay claim to a very extrava- 
gant antiquity, through a vanity common to all na- 
tions. The accounts which are given by their an- 
cient chronicles of their first settlements are gen- 
erally tales confuted by their own absurdity. The 
settlement of the greatest consequence, the best au- 
thenticated, and from which the Irish deduce the 
pedigree of the best families, is derived from Snain : 
it was called Clan Milea, or the descendants of Mile- 
Bius, and Kin Scuit, or the race of Scyths, afterwards 
known by the name of Scots. The Irish historians 
suppose this race descended from a person called 
Gathel, a Scythian by birth, an Egyptian by educa- 
tion, the contemporary and friend of the prophet 
Moses, But these histories, seeming clear-sighted in 
the obscure affairs of so blind an antiquity, instead 
of pas'^ing for treasuries of ancient facts, are regarded 
by the judicious as modern fictions. In cases of this 
sort rational conjectures are more to be relied on 
than improbable relations. It is most probable that 
Ireland was first peopled from Britain. The coasts 





4. I 






'!^ i 



of these countries are in some places in sight of each 
other. The language, the manners, and religion of the 
most ancient inhabitants of both are nearly the same. 
The Milesian colony, whenever it arrived in Ireland, 
could have made no great change in the manners 
or language ; as the ancient Spaniards were a branch 
of the Celt®, as well as the old inhabitants of Ire- 
land. The Irish language is not different from that 
of all other nations, an Temple and Rapin, from ig- 
norance of it, have asserted ; on the contrary, i -^ 
of its words bear a remarkable resemblance not only 
to those of the Welsh and Armoric, but also to the 
Greek and Latin. Neither is the figure of the let- 
ters very different from the vulgar character, though 
their order is not the same with that of other na- 
tions, nor the names, which are taken from the Irish 
proper names of several species of trees : a circum- 
stance which, notwithstanding their similitude to the 
Roman letters, argues a different original and great 
antiquity. The Druid discipline anciently flourished 
in that island. In the fourth century it fell down be- 
fore the preaching of St. Patrick. Then the Chris- 
tian religion was embraced and cultivated with an 
imcommon zeal, which displayed itself in the num- 
ber and consequence of the persons who in all parts 
embraced the contemplative life. This mode of life, 
and the situation of Ireland, removed from the hor- 
ror of those devastations which shook the rest of 
Europe, made it a refuge for learning, almost ex- 
tinguished everywhere else. Science flourished in 
Ireland during the seventh and eighth centuries. 
The same cause which destroyed it in other countries 
also destroyed it there. The Danes, then pagans, 
made themselves masters of the island, after a long 



and wasteful war, in which they destroyed the scien- 
ces along with the monasteries in which they were 
cultivated. By as destructive a war they were at 
length expelled; but neither their ancient science 
nor repose returned to the Irish, who, falling into 
domestic distractions as soon as they wore freed from 
their foreign enemies, sunk quickly into a state of 
ignorance, poverty, and barbarism, which must have 
been very great, since it exceeded that of the rest 
of Europe. The disorder in the Church were equal 
to those in the civil economy, and furnished to the 
Pope a plausible pretext for giving Henry a commis- 
sion to conquer the kingdom, in order to reform it. 

The Irish were divided into a numbor of tribes or 
clans, each clan forming within itself a separate gov- 
ernment. It was ordered by a chief, who was not 
raised to that dignity either by election or by the or- 
dinary course of descent, but as the eldest and wor- 
thiest of the blood of the deceased lord. This order 
of succession, called Tanistry, was said to have been 
invented in the Danish troubles, lest the tribe, during 
a minority, should have been endangered for want of 
a sufficient leader. It was probably much more an- 
cient: but it was, however, attended with very great 
and pernicious inconveniencies, as it was obviously an 
affair of difficulty to determine who sliould bo called 
the worthiest of the blood ; and a door being always 
left open for ambition, this order introduced a great 
er mischie. than it was intended to remedy. Almost 
every tribe, besides its contention with the neighbor- 
ing tribes, nourished faction and discontent within i^ 
self. The chiefs we speak of were in general called 
Tierna, or Lords, and those of more consideration 
Riagh, or Kings. Over these were placed five kuigs 




•;f. . 









1 I 

more eminent than the rest, answerable to the five 
provinces into which the island was anciently divid- 
ed. These again were subordinate to one head, who 
was called Monarch of all Ireland, raised to that pow- 
er by election, or, more properly speakmg, by violence. 
Whilst the dignities of the state were disposed of 
by a sort of election, the office of judges, who were 
called Brehons, the trades of mechanics, and even 
those arts which we are apt to consider as depend- 
ing principally on natural genius, such as poetry and 
music, were confined in succession to certain races : 
the Irish imagining that greater advantages were to 
be derived from an early institution, and the aflfection 
of parents desirous of perpetuating the secrets of 
their art in their families, than from the casual efforts 
of particular fancy and application. This is much in 
the strain of the Eastern policy ; but these and many 
other of the Irish institutions, well enough calculated 
to preserve good arts and useful discipline, when these 
arts came to degenerate, were equally well calculated 
to prevent all improvemer* and to perpetuate corrup- 
tion, by infusing an invii ible tenaciousness of an- 
cient customs. 

The people of Ireland were much more addicted to 
pasturage than agriculture, not more from the qual- 
ity of their soil than from a remnant of the Scythian 
manners. They had but few towns, and those not 
fortified, each clan living dispersed over its own ter- 
ritory. The few walled towns they had lay on the 
searcoast; they were built by the Danes, and held 
after they had lost their conquests in the inland 
parts: here was carried on the little foreign trade 
which the island thea possessed. 
The Irish militia was of two kinds: one called 




Jfcenu which wcro foot, riightly armed with a long 
S ordagger, and almost naked ; the other, gallop 
t"^l who were horse, poorly mounted.and generaUy 
armeJ only with a battle-axe. Neither horse nor foot 
,nade much use of the spear, the sword, or the bow. 
WUh mdifferent arms, they had still worse„e. 
lu these circumstances, their natural b-ravery. wh^h^ 
though considerable, was not superior to that of their 
invaders, stood them in little stead. 

Sud> was the situation of things in Ireland, when 
Dermot, King of Leinster, having violently carried 
I^ay the wife'of one of the neighboring petty sover- 
ergns, Boderic, King of Connaught and Monarch of 
Ireland, joined with the injured husband o punish 
flagrait an outrage, and with tl-- united fore s 
Bpoiled Dermot of his territories, and obhged him to 
abandon the kingdom. The fugitive prince, ^ „ „„, 
not unapprised of Henry's designs upon his 
^untryfLew himself at his feet, implored his pro- 
taction, and promised to hold of him, as his feudatory, 
the sovereignty he should recover by his assistance 
Henry was at this time at Guienne. Nothing ould 
be more agreeable to him than such :m incident, but 
as his French dominions actually lay under an inter- 
diet, on account of his quarrel with Becket, and aU 
his Iffairs, both at home and rbvoad, were m a troub- 
led and dubious situation, it was not pruden to r^ 
move his person, nor venture any considerable body 
of his forces on a distant enterprise. Yet not wilhng 
to lose so favorable an opportunity, he warmly recom- 
mended the cause of Dermot to his regency m Eng- 
land, permitting and encouraging all persons to arm 
in his favor: a permission, m this age of enterprise, 
greedUj accepted by many; but the person who 















1 \ 



'1. :! t i 

I It: 


ABRIDGMENT OF E tilJSn Wb^riar. 

brought the most assistance '<• it, and vdced gave 
a form and spirit to the wh')le doilgn, wa^t Richard, 
Earl of Stri-ul, commonly known by the name of 
Strongbow. Dormot, to confirm in his interest this 
potent and wurlilce peer, promised him his daughter 
in marriage, with the reversion of his crown. 

The bcgimiings of so great an enterprise were 
formed witli a very slender force. Not four hundred 
men lauded near Wexford: they took the 
A. D. nw. ^^^^ ^^ storm. When reinforced, they did 
not exceed twelve hundred ; but, being joined with 
tliree thousand men by Dermot, with an incredible 
rapidity of success they reduced Waterford, Dublin, 
Limerick, the only considerable cities in Ireland. By 
the novelty of their arms they had obtained some 
striking advantages in their first engagements; and 
by these advantages they attained a superiority of 
opinion over the Irish, which every success increased. 
Before the effect of this first impression had time to 
wear off, Henry, havuig settled his affairs 
*■ "■ ""■ abrojid, entered the harbor of Cork with a 
fleet of four hundred sail, at once to secure the con- 
quest, and the allegiance of the conquerors. Tlie fajie 
of BO great a force arriving under a prince dreaded 
by all Europe very soon disposed all the petty princes, 
with their King Roderic, to submit and do homagi; 
to Henry. They had not been able to resist the arms 
of his vassals, and they hopeu tter treatment from 
submitting to the ambition of a great king, wlio left 
them everything but the honor of their mdepeadeu- 
cy, than from the avarice of adv uturers, from which 
nothing was secure. The bishops and the body of 
the clergy greatly contributed to this submission, 
from respect to the Pope, and the horror of their 



late defeats, which they b, ^n to regard > jucig 
mcnts. A uational council was held at -' ^^ K- 
imujring the Church of IroUiid to a perfect iiforu 
ity in rites and di.ciplin- to ^hat of I ngland. It is 
not to be thouglr that ui ti is council the t. ijoral 
interests of Engl lud were eutirely forg.>tten. Many 
of the English ^^cre establi., «d in their particular 
conquests under the tenure of ki. -hts' service, now 
first introducL-d into Ireland : a tenure which, if it 
has not proved the IkjsI calculi.t<-a tr .ecuro the obty 
dienco of the vassal > the sovereign, has never failed 
in any instuncc of preserving.' a vanquished r 'ople 
ia obedience to the conqueror.. Th«' English lords 
buil' strong castles on their demesnes; they put 
themselves at the head of the tribes whoso el fs 
they had blain; ihey assumed the Ir; gar^ nd 
manners; and thus, partly by force, partly y .k)Ii- 
cy the first Englifch f^unilies took a firm root m Ire- 
land. It was, iadeed, k-ng befor- they were able en- 
tirely to sii->due the island to the law« of Eny and; 
but the couimual efforts of the Irish l.,r more than 
four iiundred years proved j sufficient to dislodge 

them. , 

Whilst Henry was exteuding Ins ciKiuests to tne 
western limits of the known world, the whole fabru 
of his power was privi> "W sapped ai d u..aernuned, 
uud r ur :v to overwheh . .m with the urns, in the 
ve.7 .noiuent when he seemed to be -. rived at the 
highest and most permi -lent pciut of grand, ur and 
elory. His excessive ptvver, his coi inu lacce-. .s 
10 % and an ambition -^Nhich by words and uctvous 
. .. ;lared that the whole worbi was not sufficient for 
a great man, struck a just terror nto all the polen- 
ta OS near hiii- : he was, ii !ocd, a: -ived at that pit n 

TOi. Til. 27 











of greatness, that the means of his ruin could only 
be found in his own family. A numerous offspring, 
which is generally considered as the best defence of 
the throne, and the siipport as well as ornament of 
declining royalty, proved on this occasion the princi- 
pal part of the danger. Henry had in his lawful bed, 
besides daughters, four sons, Henry, Richard, Geof- 
frey, and John, all growing up with great hopes from 
their early courage and love of glory. No father was 
ever more delighted with these hopes, nor more ten- 
der and indulgent to his children. A custom had 
long prevailed in France for the reigning king to 
crown his eldest son in his lifetime. By this policy, 
in turbulent times, and whilst the principles of suc- 
cession were unsettled, he secured the crown to his 
posterity. Henry gladly imitated a policy enforced 
no less by paternal affection than its utility to public 
peace. He had, during his troubles with Becket, 
crowned his son Henry, then no more than sixteen 
years old. But the young king, even on the day 
of his coronation, discovered an haughtiness which 
threatened not to content itself with the share of au- 
thority to which the inexperience of his youth and 
the nature of a provisional crown confined him. The 
name of a king continually reminded him that he 
only possessed the name. The King of France, 
whose daughter ho had espoused, fomented a dis- 
content which grew with his years. Geoffrey, who 
had married the heiress of Bretagne, on the death 
of her father claimed to no purpose the entire sov- 
ereignty of his wife's inheritance, which Henry, un- 
der a pretence of guardianship to a son of ftiU age, 
still retained in his hands. Richard had not the same 
plausible pretences, but he had yet greater ambition. 


He contended for the Duchy of Guienne before hia 
mother's death, which alone could give him the color 
of a title to it. The queen, his mother, hurried on 
by her own unquiet spirit, or, as some think, stimu- 
lated by jealousy, encouraged their rebellion against 
her husband. The King of Prance, who moved all 
the other engines, engaged Ljo King of Scotland, the 
Earl of Flanders, then a powerful prince, the Earl of 
Blois, and the Earl of Boulogne in the conspiracy. 
The barons in Bretagne, in Guienne, and even m 
England, were ready to take up arms in the same 
cause; whether it was that they perceived the uni- 
form plan the king had pursued in order to their 
reduction, or were solely instigated by the natural 
fierceness and levity of their minds, fond of every 
dangerous novelty. Tlie historians of that time sel- 
dom afford us a tolerable insight into the causes of 
the transactions they relate ; but whatever were the 
causes of so extraordinary a conspiracy, it was not 
discovered until the moment it was ready for execu- 
tion. The first token of it appeared in the young 
kin'-'s demand to have either England or Normandy 
given up to liim. The refusal of this demand served 
as a signal to all parties to put themselves in motion. 
The younger Henry fled into France ; Louis entered 
Normandy with a vast army ; the barons of Bretagne 
under Geoffrey, and those of Guienne under Richard, 
ro«e in arms ; the King of Scotland pierced into Eng- 
land ; and the Earl of Leicester, at the head of four- 
teen thousand Flemings, landed in Suffolk. 

It was on this trying occasion that Henry displayed 
a greatness independent of all fortune. For, beset 
by all the neighboring powers, opposed by his own 
children, betrayed by his wife, abandoned by one part 








I M 


l* 'f 



of his subjects, uncertain of the rest, every part of his 
state rotten and suspicious, his magnanimity grew 
beneath the danger ; and when all the ordinary re- 
sources failed, he found superior i-esources in his 
own courage, wisdom, and activity. There were at 
that time dispersed over Europe bodies of mercenary 
troops, called Brabanqons, composed of fugitives from 
different nations, men who were detached from any 
country, and who, by making war a perpetual trade, 
and passing from service to service, had acquired an 
experience and military knowledge uncommon in 
those da«rs. Henry took twenty thousand 
of these uercenaries into his service, and, 
as he paid them punctually, and kept them always 
in action, they served him with fidelity. The Papal 
authority, so often subservient, so often prejudicial 
to his designs, he called to his assistance in a cause 
which did not misbecome it, — the cause of a father 
attacked by his children. Tliis took off the ill im- 
pression left by Becket's death, and kept the bishops 
firm in theur allegiance. Having taken his measures 
with judgment, he pursued the war in Normandy 
with vif^or. In this war his mercenaries had a great 
and visible advantage over the feudal armies of 
France : the latter, not so useful while they remained 
in the field, entered it late in the summer, and com- 
monly left it in forty days. The King of France was 
forced to raise the siege of Verneuil, to evacuate Nor- 
mandy, and agree to a truce. Then, at the head of 
his victorious Braban^ons, Henry marched into Brit- 
tany with an incredible eyj.dition. The rebellious 
army, astonished as much by the celerity of ks 
march as the fury of his attack, was totally routed. 
The principal towns and castles were reduced soon 

i » 

I •» 


U, H { 






after. The custody of the conquered country being 
lodged in faithful hands, he flew to the relief of Eng- 
land There his natural sou Geoffrey, Bishop elect of 
Ely, faithful during the rebellion of all his legitunate 
oflFspring, steadily maintained his cause, though with 
forces much inferior to his zeal. The kmg, before 
he entered into action, thought it expedient to per- 
form his expiation at the tomb of Becket. ^^ j„^ 
Hardly had he finished this ceremony, when 
the news arrived that the Scotch army was totaUy 
defeated, and their king made prisoner. This victo- 
ry was universally attributed to the prayers of Beck- 
ef and whilst it established the credit of the new 
saint, it established Henry in the mmds of his peo- 
ple : they no longer looked upon their king as an ob- 
iect of the Divine vengeance, but as a penitent rec- 
onciled to Heaven, and under the special protection 
of the martyr he had made. The Flemish army, 
after several severe checks, capitulated to evacuate 
the kingdom. The rebellious barons submitted soon 
after. All was quiet in England ; but the King of 
France renewed hostilities in Normandy, and laid 
siege to Rouen. Henry recruited his army with a 
body of auxiliary Welsh, arrived at Rouen with his 
usual expedition, raised the siege, and drove the King 
of France quite out of Normandy. It was then that 
he agreed to an accommodation, and in the tei as ot 
peace, which he dictated in the midst of victory to 
his sons, his subjects, and his enemiSs, there was seen 
on one hand the tenderness of a father, and on the 
other the moderation of a wise man, not insensible ot 
the mutability of fortune. 

The war wliich threatened his ruin being so hap- 
pily ended, tlie greatness of the danger served only to 

W I 













enhance his glory ; whilst he saw the King of Prance 
humbled, the Flemings defeated, the Ring of Scot- 
land a prisoner, and his sons and subjects reduced to 
the bounds of their duty. H,> employed this interval 
of peace to secure its continuance, and to prevent a 
return of the like evils; for which reason 
he made many reforms in the laws and poli- 
ty of his dominions. He instituted itinerant justices, 
to weaken the power of the great barons, and even 
of the sheriffs, •«ho were hardly more obedient, — an 
institution whicu, with great public advantages, has 
remained to our times. In the spirit of the same 
policy he armed the whole body of the people : the 
English commonalty had been in a manner disarmed 
ever since the Conquest. In this regulation we may 
probably trace the origin of the militia, which, being 
under the orders of the crown rather in a political 
than a feudal respect, were judged more to be re- 
lied on than the soldiers of tenure, to whose pride 
and power they might prove a sort of counterpoise. 
Amidst these changes the affairs of the clergy re- 
mained untouched. The king had experienced how 
dangerous it was to attempt removing foundations so 
deeply laid both in strength and opinion. He there- 
fore wisely aimed at acquiring the favor of that body, 
and turning to his own advantage a power he should 
in vain attempt to overthrow, but which he might set 
up against another power, which it was equally his 
interest to reduce. 

Though these measures were taken with the great- 
est judgment, and seemed to promise a peaceful even- 
ing to his reign, the seeds of rebellion remained still 
at home, and the dispositions that nourished them 
were rather increased abroad. The parental author- 

Ik M ; 





it, rMpectabU at aU Umea, ought to havo «■« P""^ 

;£ln pre^iled, of be..,wing l-a. -4 0»- 

diction., under the name "' .,^PP'""'«<»' ^*" 7^ 
of kinis. and the greater nobility, gave them a power 
whSh wa. trequentl, employed against the pver 
LS^L miltey and licentioua ■""»"«« "'.'^"X 
almost destroyed every trace ot over, " »« °f ^^'^ 
!^^horltT In the East, where the nvalship of broil. 
:« U Xgerous, such is the force of f<--^''VO^- 

riongst f rude^o^, « ^^ ::^.rs:er' 

TatTw^™ y o^--»- I' -- =»''•' ^ 

misfo^inersulr in a particular manner from thrs 
^Philip succeeded Louis, King of France. ^^^^ 

ie use of the same instruments in the work He 
revived the spirit of rebellion in the P-^-' Henr^^; 
cnnfi These young princes were never in harmony 
S" elhother but'iu a confederacy against theu 








, vj4; 


f , Mi 



A.B. 11S8. 

i 1 1 

father, and the father had no recourse but m the mel- 
ancholy safety derived from the disunion of his chil- 
dren. This he thought it expedient to increase ; but 
Buch policy, when discovered, has always a dangerous 
effect. The sons, having just quarrelled enough to 
give room for an explanation of each other's designs, 
and to display those of their father, enter into a 
new conspiracy. In the midst of these mo- 
tions the young king dies, and showed at his 
death such signs of a sincere repentance as served to 
revive the old king's tenderness, and to take away all 
comfort for his loss. The death of his third son, 
*.». 1184. ^®<'ff'"^7» followed close upon the heels of 
this funeral. He died at Paris, whither ho 
had gone to concert measures against his father. 
Richard and John remained. Richard, fiery, rest- 
less, ambitious, openly took up arms, and pursued 
the war with implacable rancor, and such success as 
drove the king, in the decline of his life, to a dishon- 
orable treaty ; nor was he then content, but excited 
new troubles. John was his youngest and favorite 
child ; in him he reposed all his hopes, and consoled 
himself for the undutifulness of his other sons ; but 
after concluding tlie treaty with the King of Franco 
and Richard, he found too soon that John had been 
as deep as any in the conspiracy. This was his last 
wound : afflicted by his children in their deaths and 
harassed in their lives, mortified as a father and a 
king, worn down with cares and sorrows more than 
with years, he died, cursing his fortune, his children, 
and the hour of his birth. When he perceived that 
death approached him, by his own desire he was car- 
. „ iiaa "^<^ i"*o * churcli and laid at the altar'i 
foot. Hardly liad he expired, when he was 




Stripped, thea forsaken by his attendants, and left a 
long time a naked and unheeded body in an empty 
church : afifording a just consolation for the obscurity 
of a mean fortune, and an instructive lesson how lit- 
tle an outward greatness and enjoyments foreign to 
the mind contribute towards a solid felicity, in the 
example of one who was the greatest of kuigs and the 
unhappiest of mankind. 






Whilst Henry lived, the King of France had al- 
ways an effectual means of breaking his power by 
the divisions in his family. But now Rich- Eichard i. 
ard succeeded to all the power of his father, 
with an equal ambition to extend it, with a temper 
infinitely more fiery and impetuous, and free from 
every impediment of internal dissension. Those cir- 
cumstances filled the mind of Pliilip with great and 
just uneasiness. There was no security but in find- 
ing exercise for the enterprising genius of the young 
king at a distance from home. The new Crusade af- 
forded an advantageous opportunity. A little before 
his father's death, Richard had taken the cross in 
conjunction with the King of France. So precipi- 
tate were the fears of that monarch, tliat Richard 
was hardly crowned wlien ambassadors were dis- 
patched to England to remind him of his obligation, 
and to pique his pride by acquainting him that their 
master was even then in readiness to fulfil his part 
of their common vow. An enterprise of this sort 







N , ! 

r».. 1 

was extremely agreeable to the genius of Richaid, 
where religion sanctiEed the thirst of military fjlory, 
aud where the glory itself seemed but the more de- 
sirable by being unconnected with interest. He im- 
mediately accepted the proposal, and resolved to in 
sure the success as well as the lustre of his expedi- 
tion by the magnificence of his preparations. Not 
content with the immense treasures amassed by his 
father, he drew in vast sums by the sale of almost all 
the demesnes of the crown, and of every office under 
it, not excepting those of the highest trust. The cler- 
gy, whose wealth and policy enabled them to take ad- 
vantage of the necessity and weakness of the Croises, 
were generally the purchasers of both. To secure his 
dominions in his absence, he made an alliance with 
the princes of Wales, and with the King of Scotland. 
To the latter he released, for a sum of money, tlie 
homage which had been extorted by his fnther. 

His brother John gave him most uneasiudss ; but 
finding it unworthy, or impracticable, to use the se- 
verer methods of jealous policy, he resolved to se- 
cure his fidelity by loading him with benefits. He 
bestowed on him sit earldoms, and gave him in 
marriage the Lady Avisa, solo heiress of the great 
house of Gloucester ; but as he gave him no share in 
the regency, he increased his power, and left him dis- 
contented in a kingdom committed to the care of new 
men, who had merited their places by their money. 

It will be proper to take a view of the condition 
of the Holy Land at the time when this third Cru- 
sade was set on foot to repair the faults committed 
in the two former. The conquests of the Croises, 
extending over Palestiae and a part of Syria, had 
been erected into a sovereignty under the name 




of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. This kingdom, ill- 
ordered within, surrounded on aU sides by powerful 
enemies, subsisted by a strength not its own for 
near ninety years. But dissensions arising about 
the succession to the crown, between Guy of Lusi- 
gnan and Raymond, Earl of Tripoli, Guy, either be- 
cause he thought the assistance of the European 
princes too distant, or that he feared their decision, 
called in the aid of Sdadin, Sultan of Egypt. This 
able prince immediately entered Palestine. As the 
whole strength of the Christians iu Palestine de- 
pended upon foreign succor, he first made himself 
master of the maritime towns, and then Jerusalem 
fell an easy prey to his arms ; whilst the competitors 
contended with tlie utmost violence for a kingdom 
which no longer existed for either of them. All Eu- 
rope was alarmed at tliis revolution. The banished 
Patriarch of Jerusidem filled every place with the 
distresses of the Eastern Cliristians. The Pope or- 
dered a solemn fast to bo forever kept for this loss, 
and then, exerting all his influence, excited a new 
Crusade, in which vast numbers engaged with an 
ardor unabated by their former misfortunes; but 
wanting a proper subordination ratlier than a suffi- 
cient force, they made but a slow progress, ^ , ^^ 
when Richard and Philip, at the head of 
more than one hundred thousand chosen men, the 
one from Marseilles, the other from Genoa, set sail 
to their assistance. 

In his voyage to the Holy Land accident presented 
Richard with an unexpected conquest. A ^^^y^ 
vessel of his fleet was driven by a storm 
to take L^holter in the Isle of Cyprus. That island 
was yovcrued by a prince named Isaac, of the im- 












! Jit 
i . Hi 

perial family of the Comneni, who not only lefused 
all relief to the Bufferere, but plundered them of 
the little remains of their substance. Richard, re- 
senting this inhospitable treatment, aggravated by 
the insolence of the tyrant, turned his force upon 
Cyprus, vanquished Isaac in the field, took the capi- 
ttd city, and was solemnly crowned king of that 
island. But deeming it as glorious to give as to 
acquire a crown, he soon after resigned it to Lusi- 
gnan, to satisfy him for his claim on Jerusalem ; in 
whose descendants it continued for several genera- 
tions, until, passing by marriage into the family of 
Coruaro, a Venetian nobleman, it was acquired to 
that state, the only state in Europe which had any 
real benefit by all the blood and treasure lavished 
in the Holy War. 

Richard arrived in Palestine some time after the 
King of France. His arrival gave new vigor to the 
operations of the Croises. He reduced Acre to sur- 
render at discretion, which had been in vain besieged 
for two years, and in the siege of which an infinite 
number of Christians had perished; and so much 
did lie distinguish himself on this and on all occa- 
sions, that the whole expedition seemed to rest on his 
single valor. The King of France, seeuig him fully 
engaged, had all that he desired. The climate was 
disagreeable to his constitution, and the war, in 
vhich lie acted but a second part, to his pride. 
He therefore hastened home to execute his proj- 
ects against Richard, amusing him with oaths made 
to be violated, — leaving, indeed, a part of his for- 
ces under the Duke of Burgundy, but with private 
orders to give him underhand all possible obstruc- 
tion. Notwithstanding the desertion of his ally, 



Richard contintied the war with uncommon alao- 
rity. With rery unequal numbers he eiigaged and 
defeated the whole army of Saladin, and slew forty 
thousand of his best troops. He obliged him to 
evacuate all the towns on the seansoast, and spread 
the renown and terror of his arms over all Asia. A 
thousand great exploits did not, however, enable him 
to extend his conquests to the inland country. Jeal- 
ousy, envy, cabals, and a total want of discipline 
reigned in the army of the Croises. The climate, 
and their intemperance more than the climate, wasted 
them with a swift decay. The vow which brought 
them to the Holy Land was generally for a limited 
time, at the conclusion of which they wore always 
impatient to depart. Their armies broke up at the 
most critical conjunctures, — as it was not the ne- 
cessity of the service, but the extent of their vows, 
which held them together. As soon, therefore, as 
they had habituated themselves to the country, and 
attained some experience, they were gone ; and new 
men supplied their places, to acquire experience by 
the same misfortunes, and to lose the benefit of it by 
the same inconstancy. Thus the war could never be 
carried on with steadiness and uniformity. On the 
other side, Saladin continually repaired his losses ; 
his resources were at hand ; and this great captain 
very judiciously kept possession of tliat mountainous 
country which, formed by a perpetual ridge of Liba- 
nus, in a manner walls in the sea-coast of Palestine. 
There he hung, like a continual tempest, ready to 
burst over the Christian army. On his rear was the 
strong city of Jerusalem, which secured a commu- 
nication with the countries of Chaldea and Mesopo- 
tamia, from whence he was well supplied with every- 


■('(1 1 

it I'l 








thing. If the Christians attempted to improve their 
■uccesses by penetruting to Jerusalem, they had a 
city powerfully garrisoned in their front, a country 
wasted and destitute of forage to act in, and Saladin 
with a vast army on their rear advantageously posted 
to cut off their convoys and reinforcements. 

Richard was laboring to get over these disadvan- 
tages, when he was informed by repeated expresses 
of the disorder of his affairs in Europe, — disorders 
which arose from the ill dispositions he had made at 
his departure. The heads of his regency had abused 
their power; they quarrelled with each other, and 
the nobility with them. A sort of a civil war had 
arisen, in which they were deposed. Prince John 
was the main spring of these dissensions ; he engaged 
in a close communication of councils with the King 
of Prance, who had seized upon several places in 
Normandy. It was with rogret that Richard found 
himself obliged to leave a theatre on which he had 
planned such an illustrious scene of action. A con- 
stant emulation in courtesy and politeness, as well as 
in military exploits, had been kept up between him 
and Saladin. Ho no^ concluded a truce with that 
generous enemy, and on his departure sent a messen- 
ger to assure him that on its expiration he would not 
fail to be again in Palestine. Saladin replied, that, 
if he must lose his kingdom, he would choose to lose 
A. D. 192. ^* *° *^® ^'"S of England. Thus Richard 
returned, leaving Jerusalem in the hands 
of the Saracens ; and this end had an enterprise in 
which two of the most powerful monarchs in Europe 
were personally engaged, an army of upwards of one 
hundred thousand men employed, and to furnish 
which the whole Christian world had been vexed and 



exhausted. It is a mekiiclioly reflection, that the 
Bpirit of great designs can seldom be in^si Mod, but 
where the reason of mankind \>' so uucultlvati 1 tliat 
they can be turned to little advantage. 

With this war ended the fortune of Richard, who 
found tlie SaractiiB less dangerous than his Christian 
allies. It is not well know ii what motive induced 
him to land at Ariulleia, at the bottom of the Oulf of 
Venice, in order i.< take his route by Germany ; but 
he pursued hi journey through the territories of the 
Duke of Austriu whom he had personally affronted 
at the siege of Aci o. And now, neither keeping him- 
self out of the power of that prince, nor rousing his 
generosity oy seeming to confide in it, he attempted 
to get through his dominions in disguise. Sovereigns 
do not easily assume the private character; thtir 
pride seldom suffers their disguise to be complctu: 
besides, Richard had made himself but too well 
known. The Duke, transported with the oppomi- 
nity of base revenge, discovered him, seized him, 
and threw him into prison; from whence he was 
only released to be thrown into another. The Em- 
peror claimed him and, without regarding ^ „ „,^ 
in this unfortunate s,;ai.tive the common dig- 
nity of sovereigns, or his gf-nt actions in the common 
cause of Europe, treated him with yet greater cruelty. 
To give a color of justice to his violence, he proposed 
to accuse Richard at the Diet of the Empire upon 
certain articles relative to his conduct in the Holy 


The news of the king's captivity ca.ised the great- 
est consternation in all his good subjects ; but it re- 
vived the hopes and machinations of Prince John, 
who bound himself by closer ties than ever to the 









'! Ill 













King of France, seized iipon some strongliolds in 
England, and, industriously spreading a report of his 
brotlier's deatli, publicly laid claim to the crown as 
lawful successor. All his endeavors, however, served 
only to excite the indignation of the people, and to 
attach them the more firmly to their unfortunate 
prince. Eleanor, the queen dowager, as good a moth- 
er as she had been a bad wife, acted with the utmost 
vigor and prudence to retain them in their duty, and 
omitted no means to procure the liberty of her son. 
The nation seconded her with a zeal, in their circum- 
stances, uncommon. No tyrant ever imposed so se- 
vere a tax upon his people as the affection of the 
people of England, already exhausted, levied upon 
themselves. The most favored religious orders were 
charged on this occasion. The Church plate was 
sold. The ornaments of the most holy relics were 
not spared. And, indeed, nothing serves more to 
demonstrate the poverty of the kingdom, reduced by 
internal dissensions and remote wars, at that time, 
than the extreme difficulty of collecting the king's 
ransom, which amounted to no more than one hun- 
dred thousand marks of silver, Cologne weight. Fjr 
raising this sum, the first taxation, the most heavy 
and general that was ever known in England, proved 
altogether insufficient. Another taxation was set on 
foot. It was levied with the same rigor as the former, 
and still fell short. Ambassadors wore sent into Oor- 
many with aU that could be raised, and with hostages 
for the payment of whatever remahicd. The king 
met these ambassadors as he was carried in chains to 
plead his cause before the Diet of the Empire. The 
ambassadors bur^t into tears at this affecting sight, 
and wept aloud ; but Richard, though touched no 




less with the affectionate loyalty of his suujects than 
with his own fallen condition, preserved his dignity 
entire in his misfortunes, and with a cheerful air in- 
quired of the state of his dominions, the behavior of 
the King of Scotland, and the fidelity of his brother, 
the Count John. At the Diet, no longer protected 
by the character of a sovereign, he was supported by 
his personal abilities. He had a ready wit and great 
natural eloquence ; and his high reputation and the 
weight of his cause pleading for him more strongly, 
the Diet at last interested itself in his favor, and pre- 
vaUed on the Emperor to accept an excessive ransom 
for dismissing a prisoner whom he detained without 
the least color of justice. Philip moved heaven and 
earth to prevent his enlargement: he negotiated, he 
promised, he flattered, he threatened, he outbid his 
extravagant ransom. The Emperor, in his own na- 
ture more inclined to the bribe, which tempted him 
to be base, hesitated a long time between these offers. 
But as the payment of the ransom was more certain 
than Philip's promises, and as the instances of the 
Diet, and the menaces of the Pope, who protected 
Richard, as a prince serving under the Cross, were of 
more immediate consequence than his threats, Rich- 
ard was at length released ; and though it is said the 
Emperor endeavored to seize him again, to extort an 
other ransom, he escaped safely into England. 

Richard, on his coming to England, found ^ ^ ^^^ 
all things in the utmost confusion ; but be- 
fore he attempted to apply a remedy to so c ostinate 
« disease, in order to wipe off any degrading ideas 
which might have arisen from his imprisonment, he 
caused himself to be new crowned. Then holding 
his Court of Great Council at Southampton, he made 








TOL. Til. 







some useful regulations in the distribution of justice. 
He called some great offenders to a strict account. 
Coiuit John deserved no favor, and he lay entirely 
at the king's mercy, who, by an unparalleled gener- 
osity, pardoned him his multiplied offences, only de- 
priving him of the power of which he had made so 
bad a use. Generosity did not oblige him to forget 
the hostilities of the King of France. But to prose- 
cute the war money was wanting, which new taxes 
and new devices supplied with difficulty and with 
dishonor. All the moan oppressions of a necessitous 
gcvernment were exercised on this occasion. All the 
grants which were made on the king's departure to 
the Holy Land were revoked, on the weak pretence 
that the purchasers had sufficient recompense whilst 
they held them. Necessity seemed to justify this, as 
well as many other measures that were equally vio- 
lent. The whole revenue of the crown had been dis- 
sipated ; means to support its dignity must be found ; 
and these means were the least unpopular, as most 
men saw with pleasure the wants of government fall 
upon those who had started into a sudden greatness 
by taking advantage of those wants. 

Richard renewed the war with Philip, which con- 
tinued, though frequently interrupted by truces, for 
about five years. In this war Richard signalized 
himself by that irresistible courage which on all 
occasions gave him a superiority over the King of 
■^•••nce. But his revenues were exhausted; a great 
B i-city reigned both iv France and England; and 
the irregiilar manner of carrying on war in those 
days prevented a clear decision in favor of either 
party. Richard had still an eye on the Holy Land, 
which he considered as the only province worthy of 




his arms ; and this continually diverted his thoughts 
from the steady prosecution of the war in France. 
The Crusade, lia.e a superior orb, moved along with 
all the particular systems of politics of that time, 
and 8uspe> led, accelerated, or put back all opera- 
tions on motives foreign to the things themselves. 
In this war it must be remarked that Richard made 
a considerable use of the mercenaries who had been 
BO serviceable to Henry the Second; and the King 
of France, perceiving how much his father, Louis, 
had suffered by a want of that advantage, kept on 
foot a standing army in constant pay, which none 
of his predecessors had done before him, and which 
afterwards for a long time very imaccountably fell 
into disuse in both kingdoms. 

Whilst this war was carried on by intervals and 
starts, it came to the ears of Richard that a noble- 
man of Limoges had found on his lands a consider- 
able hidden treasure. The king, necessitous and 
rapacious to the last degree, and stimulated by the 
exaggeration and marvellous circumstances which 
always attend the report of such discoveries, imme- 
diately sent to demand the treasure, under pretence 
of the rights of seigniory. The Limosin, either be- 
cause he had really discovered nothing or tliat he 
was unwilling to part with so valuable an acquisi- 
tion, refused to comply with the king's demand, and 
fortified his castle. Enraged at the disappointment, 
Richard relinquished the important alfairs in which 
he was engaged, and laid siege to this castle with all 
the eagerness of a man who has his heart set upon a 
trifle. In this siege he received a wound from an 
arrow, aua it proved mortal ; but in the last, as in all 
the other acts of his life, something truly noble shone 










■ I Mt l 



ill i !'■ 
f I 


I > 

A. D. U98. 

out amidst the rash and irregular motions of his mind. 
The castle was taken before ho died. The man from 
whom Richard had received the wound was brought 
before him. Being asked why he levelled his arrow 
at the king, he answered, with an undaunted counte- 
nance, " that the king with his own hand had slain 
his two brothers ; that he thanked God who gave him 
an opportunity to revenge their deaths even with the 
certainty of his own." Richard, more touched with 
the magnanimity of the man than offended at the in- 
jury he had received or the boldness of the answer, 
ordered that his life should be spared. He appointed 
his brother John to the succession ; and with these 
acts ended a lifb and reign distinguished by 
a great variety of fortunes in different parts 
of the world, and crowned with great military glory, 
but without any accession of power to himself, or 
prosperity to his people, whom he entirely neglected, 
and reduced, by his imprudence and misfortunes, to 
no small indigence and distress. 

In many respects, a striking parallel presents it- 
self between this ancient King of England and 
Charles the Twelfth, of Sweden. They were both 
inordinately desirous of war, and rather generals 
than kings. Both were rather fond of glory than 
ambitious of empire. Both of them made and de- 
posed sovereigns. They both carried on their wars 
at a distance from home. Thoy were both made 
prisoners by a friend and ally. They were both re- 
duced by an adversary inferior in war, but above 
them in the arts of rule. After spending their lives 
in remote adventures, each perished at last near home 
in enterprises not suited to the splendor of their for- 
mer exploits. Both died childless. And both, by 

!> ■' 




the neglect of their affairs and the severity of their 
government, gave their subjects provocation and en- 
couragement to revive their freedom. In all these 
respects the two characters were alike ; but Richard 
feU as much short of the Swedish hero in temper- 
ance, chastity, and equality of mind as he exceeded 
him in wit and eloquence. Some of his sayuigs are 
the most spirited that we find in that time ; and some 
of his verses remam, which in a barbarous age might 
have passed for poetry. 



We are now arrived at one of the most ^.^,i„. 
memorable periods in the English story, 
whether we consider the astonishing revolutions 
which were then wrought, the calamities m which 
both the prince and people were involved, or the 
happy consequences which, arising from tlie midst 
of those calamities, have constituted die glory and 
prosperity of England for so many years. We shall 
see a throne founded in arms, and augmented by 
the successive policy of five able princes, at once 
shaken to its foundations: first made tributaij by 
the arts of a foreign power ; then lunited, and al- 
most overturned, by the violence of its subjects. 
We shall see a king, to reduce his people to obedi- 
ence, draw into his territories a tumultuary foreign 
army, and destroy his country instead of esUblishing 
his government. We shall behold the people, grown 
desperate, call in another foreign army, with a foreign 









1 I 

princo at its head, and throw away that liberty which 
they had sacrificed everything to preserve. We shall 
see the arms of this prince successful against an es- 
tablished king in the vigor of his years, ebbing in the 
full tide of their prosperity, and yielding to an in- 
fant: after this, peace and order and liberty restored, 
the foreign force and foreign title purged off, and all 
things settled as happily as beyond all hope. 

Richard dying without lawful issue, tlie succession 
to his dominions again became dubious. They con- 
sisted of various territories, governed by various rules 
of descent, and all of them uncertain. There were 
two competitors : the first was Prince John, youngest 
son of Henry the Second ; the other was Arthur, sou 
of Constance of Bretagne, by Geoffrey, the third sou 
of that monarch. If the right of consanguinity were 
only considered, the title of John to the whole succes- 
sion had been indubitable. If the right of represen- 
tation had then prevailed, which now universally pre- 
vails, Arthur, as standing in the place of his father, 
Geoffrey, had a solid claim. About Brittany there 
was no dispute. Anjou, Poitou, Touraine, and Gui- 
enne declared in favor of Arthur, on the principle of 
representation. Normandy was entirely for John. In 
England the point of law had never been entirely set- 
tled, but it seemed rather inclined to the side of con- 
sanguinity. Therefore in England, where this point 
was dubious at best, the claim of Arthur, an infant 
and a stranger, had little force against the pretensions 
of John, declared heir by the will of the late king, 
supported by his armies, possessed of his treasures, 
and at the head of a powerful party. He secured in 
his interests Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and 
Olanville, the chief justiciary, and by them the body 


. I 

1 ;■ ' 



of the ecclesiastics and the law. It i8 remarkable, 
also, that he paid court to the cities and boroughs 
whiih is the first instance of that policy : but several 
of these communities now happily began to emerge 
from their slavery, and, taking advantage of the ne- 
cessities and confusion of the late reign, increased ui 
wealth and consequence, and had then first attained 
a free and regular form of administration. Iho 
towns new to power declared heartily in favor of a 
prince who was willing to allow that their declara- 
lion could confer a right. The nobility, who saw 
themselves beset by the Church, the law, and the 
burghers, had taken no measures, nor even a reso- 
lution, and therefore had nothing left but to con- 
cur in acknowledging the title of John, whom they 
knew and hated. But thougli they were not able o 
exclude him fi-om the succession, they had strength 
enough to oblige him to a solemn promise of restor- 
ing those liberties and franchises wliich they had al- 
ways claimed without having ever enjoyed or even 
perfectly understood. The clergy also took advaiv- 
ta-e of the badness of his title to establish one alto- 
geU,er as ill founded. Hubert, Archbishop of Can- 
terbury, in the speech which he delivered at the 
king's coronation, publicly affirmed that the crown 
of England was of right elective. He drew his ex- 
amples in support of this doctrine, not from the Ins- 
tories of the ancient Saxon kings, althongh a species 
of election within a certain family had then frequent- 
Iv prevailed, but from the history of the first kings of 
tlie Jews : without doubt in order to revive those pre- 
tensions which the clergy first set up in the election 
of Stephen, and which they had since been obliged 
to conceal, but had not entirely forgotten. 







isx li 






y.i^TniBj«"vgara5yt3a»isfy<i:mB7.^T\,'^TWgHgL8«t-r'rfn«.tTi iw* « jiiw i Bi<^ K< 



[ 1 i. 'J|f| iii 

John accepted a sovereigutj weakened in the very 
act by which he acquired it ; but he submitted to the 
times. He came to the tlirone at the age of thirty- 
two. He had entered early into business, and had 
been often involved in difficult and arduous enter- 
prises, in which he experienced a variety of men and 
fortunes. His father, whilst he was very young, had 
sent him into Ireland, which kingdom was destined 
for his portion, hi order to habituate that people to 
their future sovereign, and to give the young prince 
an opportunity of conciliating the favor of his new 
subjects. But he gave on this occasion no good 
omens of capacity for government. Full of the inso- 
lent levity of a young man of high rank without edu- 
cation, and surrounded with others equally unprac- 
tised, he insulted the Irish chiefs, and, ridiculing their 
uncouth garb and manners, ho raised such a disaflbc- 
tion to the English government, and so much opposi- 
tion to it, as all the wisdom of his father's best officers 
and counsellors was hardly able to overcome. In the 
decline of his father's life he joined in the rebellion 
of his brothers, with so much more guilt as with more 
ingratitude and hypocrisy. Duruig the reign of Rich- 
ai'd iie was the perpetu .1 author of seditions and tu- 
mults ; and yet was pardoned, and even favored by 
that prince to his death, when he very unaccount- 
ably appointed him heir to all his dominions. 

It was of the utmost moment to John, who had no 
solid title, to conciliate the favor of all the world. 
Yet one of his first steps, whilst his power still re- 
mained dubious and unsettled, was, on pretence of 
consanguinity, to divorce his wife Avisa, with whom 
he had lived many years, and to marry Isabella of 
Augouleme, a woman of extraordinary beauty, but 



who had been betrothed to Hugh, Count of Marcho : 
thus disgusting at once the powerful friends of his 
divorced wife, and those of the Earl of Marche, whom 
he had so sensibly wronged. 

The King of France, Philip Augustus, saw with 
pleasure these proceedings of John, as he had before 
rejoiced at the dispute about the succession. He had 
been always employed, and sometimes with success, 
to reduce the English power through the reigns of 
one very able and one very warlike prince. He had 
greater advantages in this conjuncture, and a prince 
of quite another character now to contend with. He 
was therefore not long without choosing his part; 
and whilst he secretly encouraged the Count of 
Marche, ahready stimulated by his private wrongs, he 
openly supported the claim of Arthur to the Duchies 
of Anjou and Touraiue. It was the character of tliis 
prince readily to lay aside and as readily to reassuuie 
his enterprises, as his aflFairs demanded. He saw 
that he had declared himself too rashly, and that ho 
was in danger of being assaulted upon every side. 
He saw it was necessary to break an alliance, which 
the nice circumstances and timid cliaracter of John 
would enable him to do. In fact, John was at this 
time united in a close alliance with the Emperor and 
the Earl of Flanders ; and these princes were en- 
gaged in a war with France. He had then a most 
favorable opportunity to establish all his claims, and 
at the same time to put the King of France out of a 
condition to question them ever after. But ^^ ^^ 
he suffered himself to be overreached by 
the artifices of Philip : he consented to a treaty of 
peace, by which he received an empty acknowledg- 
ment of his right to the disputed territories, and in 


• 1 


' *. -ii 

1 V 










return for which aoknowledgmeut he renounced his 
alliance with the Emperor. B/ this act he at once 
Btrengthened his enemy, gave up his allj, and low- 
ered his character with his subjects and with all the 

This treaty was hardly signed, when the 
ill consequences of his conduct became evi- 
dent. The Earl of Marche and Arthur immediate- 
ly renewed their claims and hostilities undor the pro- 
tection of the King of France, who made a strong 
diversion by invading Normandy. At the commence- 
ment of these motions, John, by virtue of a prerog- 
ative hitherto undisputed, summoned his English bar- 
ons to attend him into France ; but iu-stcad of a 
compliance with his orders, ho was surpriocd with a 
solemn demand of their ancient liberties. It is as- 
tonishing that the barons sliould at that time have 
ventured on a resolution of such dangerous impor- 
tance, as they had provided no sort of means to sup- 
port tliem. But the history of those times furnishes 
many instances of the like want of design in the most 
momentous aflliirs, and shows that it is in vain to 
look for political causes for the actions of men, who 
were most commonly directed by a brute caprice, 
and were for the greater part destitute of any fixed 
principles of obedience or resistance. Tlie king, sen- 
sible of the weakness of his barons, fell upon some 
of their castles with such timely vigor, and treated 
tliose whom he had reduced with so much severity, 
thyt the rest immediately and abjectly submitted. 
He levied a severe tax upon their fiefs ; and thinking 
himself more strengthened by this treasure than the 
forced serv ice of his barons, he excused the personal 
attendance of most of them, and, passing into Nor- 



. V.» ■ 'A 

\1. i 



A.>. UM. 

mandy, he raised au army there. Ho foi'ud 
that his enemies had united their forces, 
and iuvested the castle of Mirebcau, a place of impor- 
tance, in which his mother, from whom he derived 
his right to Ouienue, was besieged. He flew to the 
relief of this place with the spirit of a greater char- 
acter, and the success was answerable. The Breton 
and Poitevin army was defeated, his mother was 
freed, and the young Duke of Brittany and his sis- 
ter were made prisoners. The latter he sent into 
England, to be confined in the castle of Bristol ; the 
former he carried with him to Rouen. The good 
fortune of John now seemed to be at its highest 
point ; but it was exalted on a precipice ; and this 
great victory proved the occasion of all the evils 
which afflicicd his life. 

John was not of a character to resist the tempta- 
tion of having the life of his rival in his hands. All 
historians are as fully agreed that he murdered his 
nephew as they differ in the means by which he 
accomplished that crime. But the report was soon 
spread abroad, variously heightened in the circum- 
stances by the obscurity of the fact, A-hich left all 
men at liberty to imagine and invent, and excited all 
those sentiments of pity and indignation which a 
very young prince of great hopes, cruelly murdered 
by his uncle, naturally inspire. Philip had never 
missed an occasion of endeavoring to ruin the King 
of England : and having now acquired an opportu- 
nity of accomplishuig that byjustio which ho had 
in vain sought by ambition, he filled jvery place with 
complaints of the cruelty of John, ^^hom, as a vassal 
to the crown of France, the king accused of the mur- 
der of another vassal, and summoned him to Paris to 




I 1 




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be tried by his peers. It was by no means concistent 
either with the dignity or safety of John to appear to 
this summons. He had the argument of kings to 
justify what he had done. But as in all great crimes 
there is something of a latent weakness, and in a vi- 
cious caution something material is ever neglected, 
John, satisfied with removing his rival, took no 
thought about his enemy ; but whilst he saw him- 
self sentenced for non-appearance in the 

A. B. 1303. ^^^^^ ^j. p^^^^^ ^^.jg^ jjg g^^ ^jjQ gjjjg Qf 

France entering Normandy with a vast army in con- 
sequence of this sentence, and place after place, cas- 
tle after castle, falling before him, he passed his time 
at Rouen in the profoundest tranquillity indulging 
himself in indolent amusements, and satisfied with 
vain threatenings and boasts, which only added 
greater shame to his inactivity. The English bar- 
ons who had attended him in this expedition, disaf- 
fected from the beginning, and now wearied with 
being so long witnesses to the ignominy of their 
sovereign, retired to their own country, and there 
spread the report of his unaccountable sloth and 
cowardice. John quickly followed them; and re- 
turning into his kingdom, polluted with the charge 
of so heavy a crime, and disgraced by so many fol- 
lies, instead of aiming by popular acts to reestablish 
his character, he exacted a seventh of their movables 
from the barons, on pretence that they had deserted 
his service. He laid the same imposition on the cler- 
gy, without giving himself the trouble of seeking for 
a pretext. He made no proper use of these great 
supplies, but saw the great city of Rouen, always 
faithful to its sovereigns, and now exerting the most 
strenuous efforts in his favor, obliged at length to 




surrender, without the least attempt to relieve it. 
Thus the whole Duchy of Normandy, originally ac 
quired by the valor of his ancestors, and the source 
from which the greatness of his family had been de- 
rived, after being supported against all shocks for 
three hundred years, was torn forever from the stock 
of RoUo, and reunited to the crown of France. Im- 
mediately all the rest of the provinces Nvhich he held 
on the continent, except a part of Guienne, despair- 
ing of his protection, and abhorring his government, 
threw themselves into the hands of Philip. 

Meanwhile the king by his personal vices completed 
the odiuji which he had acquired by the impotent 
violence of his government. Uxorious and yet disso- 
lute in his manners, he made no scruple frequently 
to violate the wives and daughters of his nobility, 
that rock on which tyranny has so often split. Other 
acts of irregular power, in their greatest excesses, 
still retain the characters of sovereign authority ; but 
here the vices of the prince intrude into the families 
of the subject, and, whilst they aggravate the oppres- 
sion, lower the character of the oppressor. 

In the disposition which all these causes had con- 
curred universally to diffuse, the slightest motion in 
his kingdom threatened the most dangerous conse- 
quences. Those things which in quiet times would 
have only raised a slight controversy, now, when the 
minds of men were exasperated and inflamed, were 
capable of affording matter to the greatest revolu- 
tions. The affairs of the Church, the winds which 
mostly governed the fluctuating people, were to be 
regarded with the utmost attention. Above all, the 
person who filled the see of Canterbury, which stood 
on a level with the throne itself, was a matter of the 




.t, , 






' ): 







^w^ 1 


w:\- . 




last importance. Just at this critical time died Hu- 
bert, archbishop of that see, a man who had a large 
share in procuring the crown for Jolm, and in weak- 
ening its authority by his acts at the ceremony of 
the coronation, as well as by his subsequent conduct. 
Immffdiately on the death of this prelate, a cabal 
of obscure monks, of the Abbey of St. Augustin, 
assemble by night, and first binding themselves by 
a solemn oath not to divulge their proceedings, until 
they should be confirmed oj the Pope, they elect one 
Reginald, their sub-prior. Archbishop of Canterbury. 
The person elected immediately crossed the seas ; but 
his vanity soon discovered the secret of his greatness. 
The king received the news of this transaction with 
surprise and indignation. Provoked at such a con- 
tempt of his authority, he fell severely on the mon- 
astery, no less surprised than himself at the clandes- 
tine proceeding of some of its members. But the 
sounder part pacified him in some measure by their 
submission. They elected a person recommended by 
the king, and sent fourteen of the most respectable 
of their body to Rome, to pray that the former pro- 
ceedings should be annulled, and the later and more 
regular confirmed. To this matter of contention 
another was added. A dispute had long subsisted 
between the suffragan bishops of the province of Can- 
terbury and the monks of the Abbey f St. Austin, 
each claiming a right to elect tlie metropolitan. This 
dispute was now revived, and pursued with much 
vigor. The pretensions of the three contending par- 
ties were laid before the Pope, to whom such disputes 
were highly pleasing, as he knew that all claimants 
willingly conspire to flatter and aggrandize that 
authority from which they expect a confirmatiou 



of their own. The first election he nulled, because 
its irregularity was glaring. Tlie right of the bish- 
ops was entirely rejected: the Pope looked with an 
evil eye upon those whose authority he was every day 
usurping. The second election was set aside, as made 
at the king's instance : this was enough to make it 
very irregular. The canon law had now grown up 
to its full strength. The enlargement of the prerog- 
ative of the Pope was the great object of tins juris- 
prudence,— a prerogative which, founded on fictitious 
monuments, that are forged in an ignorant age, easi- 
ly admitted by a credulous people, and afterwards 
confirmed and enlarged by these admissions, not sat- 
isfied with the supremacy, encroached on every mi- 
nute part of Cliuich government, and had almost 
annihilated the episcopal jurisdiction throughout Eu- 
rope. Some canons had given the metropolitan a 
power of nominating a bishop, when the circum- 
stances of the election were palpably irregular ; and 
as it does not appear that there was any otiier judge 
of the irregularity than the metropolitan himself, the 
election below in effect became nugatory. The Pope, 
taking the irregularity in this case for granted, in vir- 
tue of this canon, and by his plenitude of power, or- 
dered the deputies of Canterbury to proceed to a new 
election. At the same time he recommended to tlieir 
choice Stephen Langton, their countryman, — a per- 
son already distinguished fo' his learning, of irre- 
proachable morals, and free from every canonical im- 
pediment. This authoritative request the monks had 
not the courage to oppose in the Pope's presence and 
in his own city. They murmured, and submitted. 

In England this proceeding was not so easily rati- 
fied. John drove the monks of Canterbury from 





1, ' 











hii. ■[' 

\ - ,1' 


their monastery, and, having seized upon their rev- 
enues, threatened the eiTects of the same indigna- 
tion against all those who seemed inclined to ac- 
quiesce in the proceedings of Rome. But Rome 
had not made so bold a step with intention to re- 
cede. On tlie king's positive refusal to adniiit Lang- 
ton, and the expulsion of the monks of Canterbury, 
England was laid under an interdict. Then 
divine service at once ceased throughout the 
kingdom ; the churches were shut ; the sacraments 
were suspended ; the dead were buried without hon- 
or, in highways and ditches, and the living deprived 
of all spiritual comfort. On the other hand, the king 
let loose his indignation against the ecclesiastics, — 
seizing their goods, throwing many into prison, and 
permitting or encouraging all sorts of violence against 
them. The kingdom was thrown into the most ter- 
rible confusion ; whilst the people, uncertain of the 
object or measure of their allegiance, and distracted 
with opposite principles of duty, saw themselves de- 
prived of their religious rites by the ministers of 
religion, and their king, furious with wrongs not 
caused by them, falling indiscriminately on the in- 
nocent and the guilty : for John, instead of soothing 
his people in this their common calamity, sought to 
terrify them ir -o obedience. In a progress which he 
made into the North, he threw down the inclosures 
of his forests, to let loose the wild beasts upon their 
lands ; and as he saw the Papal proceedings increase 
with his opposition, he thought it necessary to strength- 
en himself by new devices. He extorted hostages and 
a new oath of fidelity from his barons. Ho raised a 
great army, to divert the thoughts of his subjects 
from brooding too much on their distracted condi- 





tion. This army he transported into Ireland; and 
as it happened to his father in a similar dispute with 
the Pope, whilst he was dubious of his hereditary 
kingdom, he subdued Ireland. At this time he is 
said to have established the English laws in that 
kingdom, and to have appointed itinerant justices. 
At length the sentence of excommunication was 
fulminated against the king. In the same year the 
same sentence was pronounced upon the Emperor 
Otho ; and this daring Pope was not afraid at once 
to drive to extremities the two greatest princes in 
Europe. And truly, nothing is more remarkable 
than the uniform steadiness of the court of Rome in 
the pursuits of her ambitious projects. For. know- 
ing that pretensions which stand merely i.^ opinion 
cannot bear to be questioned in any part, though she 
had hitherto seen the interdict produce but little ef- 
fect, and perceived that the excommunication Itself 
could draw scarce one poor bigot from the king's 
service, yet she receded not the least point from the 
utmost of her demand. She broke off an accommo- 
dation just on the point of being concluded, because 
the king recused to repair the losses which the clergy 
had suffered, though he agreed to everything else, 
and even submitted to receive the archbishop, who, 
being obtruded on him, had in reality been set over 
him. But the Pope, bold as politic, determined to 
render him perfectly submissive, and ^ > this pur- 
pose brought out the last arms of the ecclesiastic 
stores, which were reserved for the most extreme 
occasions. Having first released the English subjects 
from their oath of allegiance, by an unheard-of pre- 
sumption, he formally deposed John from his throno 
and dignity; he invited the King of France to take 


:\- 1 






TOU Til. 







possession of the forfeited crown ; he called forth all 
persons from all parts of Europe to assist in this ex- 
pedition, by the pardons and privileges of those who 
fought for the Holy Land. 

This proceeding did not astonish the world. The 
King of France, having driven John from all he held 
on the continent, gladly saw religion itself invite him 
to further conquests. He siimmoned all his vassals, 
under the penalty of felony, and the opprobrious 
name of eulvertage* (a nan« of all things dreaded 
by both nations,) to attend in this expedition ; and 
such force had this threat, and the hope of plunder 
in England, that a very great army was in 
"a short time assembled. A fleet also ren- 
dezvoused in the mouth of the Seine, by the writers 
of these times said to consist of seventeen hundred 
S2'A. On this occasion John roused all his powers. 
He called upon all his people who by the duty 
of their tenure or allegiance were obliged to defend 
their lord and king, and in his writs stimulated them 
by the same threats of eulvertage which had been 
employed against him. They operated powerfully in 
his favor. His fleet in number exceeded the vast 
navy of Franco ; his army was in everything but 
heartiness to the cause equal, and, extending along 
the coast of Kent, expected the descent of the French 

"Whilst these two mighty armies overspread the op- 
posite coasts, and the sea was covered with their fleets, 
and the decision of so vast an event was hourly ex- 
pected, various thoughts arose in the minds of those 
who moved the springs of these affairs. John, at the 

• A word of uncertain deriyation, but which signifiea some (can- 
daluns species of cowardice. 



head of Dne of the finest armies in the world, trembled 
inwardly, when he reflected how little he possessed 
or merited their confidence. Wounded by the con- 
sciousness of his crimes, excommunicated by the 
Pope, hated by his subjects, in danger of being at 
once abandoned by heaven and earth, he was filled 
with the most fearful anxiety. The legates of the 
Pope had hitherto seen everything succeed to their 
wish. But hpving made use of an instrument too 
great for them to wield, they apprehended, that, when 
it had ovp*^' -"v» their adversary, it might recoil 
upon the c ' me itself; that to add England 

to the res •)'» great possessions was not the 

way to ma ..umb' . ; and that in ruining John 

to aggrandize ihat mc; irch, they should set up a 
powerful enemy in the place of a submissive vassal. 

They had done enough to give them a superiority 
in any negotiation, and they privately sent an embas- 
sy to the King of England. Finding him very tract- 
able, they hasted to complete the treaty. The Pope's 
legate, Pandulph, was intrusted with this affair. He 
knew the nature of men to be such that they seldom 
engage willingly, if the whole of an hardship be 
shown them at first, but that, having advanced a cer- 
tain length, their former concessions are an argument 
with thera to advance further, and to give all because 
they have already given a great deal. Therefore he 
began with exacting an oath from the king, by which, 
without showing the extent of his design, he engaged 
him to everything he could ask. John swore to sub- 
mit to the legate in all things relating to his excom- 
munication. And first he was obliged to accept Lang- 
ton as archbishop; then to restore the monks of 
Canterbury, and other d nrived ecclesiastics, and to 


n i 

(< r 








. . 

make them a full indemnification for all their losses. 
And now, by these concessions, all things seemod to 
be perfectly settled. The cause of the quarrel was 
entirely removed. But when the king expected for 
80 perfect a submission a full absolution, the legato 
began a labored harangue on his rebellion, his tyran- 
ny, and the innumerable sins he had committed, and 
in conclusion declared that there was no way left to 
appease God and thi Church but to resign his crown 
to tlio Holy See, from whoso hands he should receive 
it purified from all pollutions, and hold it for the fu- 
ture by homage and an annual tribute. 

John was struck motionless at a demand so extrav- 
agant and unexpected. He knew not on which side 
to turn. If he cast his eyes toward the coast of 
France, he there saw his enemy Philip, who consid- 
ered him as a criminal as well as an enemy, and who 
aimed not only at his crown, but his life, at the head 
of an innumerable multitude of fierce people, ready 
to rush in upon him. If he looked at his own army, 
he saw nothing thore but coldness, disafiection, un- 
certainty, distrust, and a strength in which he knew 
not whether he ought most to confide or fear. On 
the other hand, the Papal thunders, from the wounds 
of which he was still sore, were levelled full at his 
head. He could not look steadily at these compli- 
cated difficulties: and truly it is hard to say what 
choice he had, if any choice were left to kings in what 
concerns the independence of their crown. Sur- 
rounded, therefore, with these difficulties, and that all 
his late humiliations might not be rendered as inef- 
fectual as they were ignominious, he took the last 
step, and in the presence of a numerous assemoly of 
his peers and prelates, who turned their eyes from 



this mortifying sight, formally resigned his crown to 
the Pope's legate, to whom at the same time he did 
homage and paid the first fruits of his tribute. Noth- 
ing could be added to the humiliation of the king 
upon this occasion, but the insolence of the legate, 
who spurned the treasure with his foot, and let the 
crown remain a long time on the ground, before he 
restored it to the degraded owner. 

Ill this proceeding the mouves of the king may be 
easily discovered: but how the barons of the king- 
dom, who were ply concerned, suffered witliout 
any protestation i... independency of the crown to 
be thus forfeited is mentioned by no historian of that 
time. In civil tumults it is astonishing how little re- 
gard is paid by all parties to the honor or safety of 
their country. The king's friends were probably in- 
duced to acquiesce by the same motives that had in- 
fluenced the king. His enemies, who were the most 
numerous, perhaps saw his abasement with pleasure, 
as they knew this action might be one day employed 
against him with effect. To the bigots it was enough 
that it aggrandized the Pope. It is perhaps worthy 
of observation that the conduct of Panc'ulph towards 
King John bore a very great affinity .o that of the 
Roman consuls to the people of Carthage in the last 
Punic War, — drawing them from concession to con- 
cession, and carefully concealing their design, until 
they made it impossible for the Carthaginians to re- 
sist. Such a strong resemblance did the same ambi- 
tion produce in such distant times ; and it is far from 
the sole instance in which we may trace a similarity 
between the spirit and conduct of the former and latr 
ter Rome in their common design on the liberties of 


^ i 




• < 





\ \i V 


The legat , having thui triumphed over the king, 
passed back n.-o Fiawce, but without relaxing the 
interdict or excommuiiicatiou, whicli thoy still left 
hanging over him, lest he should be tempted to throw 
off the chains of his new subjection. Arriving in 
France, they delivered their orders to Philip with as 
much haughtiness as they had done to John. Tliey 
told him that the end of the war was answered in the 
humiliation of the King of England, who had been 
rendered a dutiful son of the Church, — and that, if 
the King of France should, after this notice, proceed 
to further hostilities, he had to apprehend the same 
sentence which had humbled his adversary. Philip, 
who had not raised so great an army with a view of 
reforming the manners of King John, would have 
slighted these threats, had he not found that they 
were seconded by the ill dispositions of a part of his 
own army. The Earl of Flandt- i.irays disaffected 
to his cause, was glad of tins opportunity to oppose 
him, and, only following him through fear, withdrew 
his forces, and now openly opposed him. Pliilip 
turned his arms against his revolted vassal. The 
cause of John was revived by this dissension, and his 
courage seemed rekindled. Making one effort of a 
vigorous mind, he brought his fleet to an action with 
the French navy, which he entirely destroyed on the 
coast of Flanders, and thus freed himself from the 
terror of an invasion. But when he intended to em- 
bark and improve his success, the barons refused to 
follow him. They alleged that he was still excom- 
municated, and that they would not follow a lord 
under the censures of the Church. This demon- 
strated to the king the necessity of a speedy abso- 
lution ; and he received it this year from the hands 
of Cardinal L-'ngto- 



That archbishop no sooner came lato the kingdom 
than he discovered designs very different from those 
which tl»e Pope haU raised him to prr)raote. Ho 
formed schemes of a very deep and extensive nature, 
and became the first mover in all the aQairs which 
distinguish the remainder of this reign. In the oatli 
which he administered to John on his absolution, ho 
did not confine himself solely to the ecclesiastical 
grievances, but made him swear to amend his civil 
government, to raise no tax wi.hout the consent T 
the Great Council, and to punish no man but by 
the judgment of his court. In these terme wo may 
see the Great Charter traced in miniature. A new 
scene of contention was opened; new pretensions 
were started; a new scheme was displayed One 
dispute was hardly closed, when he was involved in 
another ; and this unfortunate king soon discovered 
that to renounce his dignity was not the way to se- 
cure his repose. For, being cleared of the excom- 
munication, he resolved to pursue the war in France, 
in which he was not without a prospect of success ; 
but the barons refused upon new pretences, and not 
a man would serve. The king, incensed to find him- 
self equally opposed in his lawful and unlawful com- 
mands, prepared to av-nge himself in his accustomed 
manner, and to reduce the bar-^is to obedience by 
carrying war into their estat' But he found by 
tills experiment that his power wa^ at an end. The 
Archbishop followed him, confronted him with the 
liberties of his people, reminded- him of his late oath, 
and threatened to excommunicate every person who 
should obey him in his illegal proceedings. The 
k'ng, first provoked, afterwards terrified at this reso- 
lution, forbore to prosecute the recusants. 









;i^ . 

The English barons had privileges, which they 
knew to have been vio' xted ; they had always kept 
up the memory of the ancient Saxon liberty ; and if 
they were the conquerors of Britain, they did not 
think that their own servitude was the just fruit of 
their victory. They had, however, but an indistinct 
view of the object at which they aimed ; they rather 
felt their wrongs than understood the cause of them ; 
and having no head nor council, they were more in 
a condition of distressing their king and disgracing 
their country by theu* disobedience than of applying 
any effectual remedy to their grievances. Langton 
saw these dispositions, and these wants. He had 
conceived a settled plan for reducing the king, and 
all his actions tended to carry it into execution. 
This prelate, xmder pretence of holding an ecclesi- 
astical synod, drew together privately some of the 
principal barons to the Church of St. Paul in Lon- 
don. There, having expatiated on the miseries 
which the kingdom suffered, and having explained 
at the same time the liberties to which it was enti- 
tled, he produced the famous charter of Henry the 
First, long concealed, and of which, with infinite dif- 
ficulty, he had procured an authentic copy. This he 
held up to the barons as the standard about which 
they were to unite. These were the liberties which 
their ancestors had received by the free concession of 
a former king, and these the rights which their vir- 
tue was to force from the present, if (which God for- 
bid !) they should find it necessary to have recourse 
to such extremities. The barons, transported to find 
an authentic instrument to justify their discontent 
and to explain and sanction their pretensions, cov- 
ered the Archbishop with praises, readily confeder- 



ated to support their demands, and, binding them- 
Belvos by every obligation of human and religious 
faith to vigor, unanimity, and secrecy, they depart to 
confederate others in their design. 

Tliis plot was in the hands of too many to bo per- 
fectly concealed; and John saw, without knowing 
how to ward it off, a more dangerous blow levelled 
at his authority than any of the former. He had no 
resources within his kingdom, where all ranks and 
orders were \mited against him by one common 
hatred. Foreign alliance he had none, among tem- 
poral powers. He endeavored, therefore, if possible, 
to draw some benefit from the misfortune of his new 
circumstances : he threw himself upon the protection 
of the Papal power, which he had so long and with 
such reason opposed. The Pope readily received him 
into his protection, but took this occasion to make 
him purchase it by another and more formal resig- 
nation of his crown. His present necessities and his 
habits of humiliation made this second degradation 
easy to the kuig. But Langton, who no longer acted 
in subservience to the Pope, from whom he had now 
nothing further to expect, and who had put himself 
at the head of the patrons of civil liberty, loudly ex- 
claimed at this indignity, protested against the resig- 
nation, and laid his protestation on the altar. 

Tins was more disagreeable to the barons than the 
first resignation, as they were sensible tliat he now 
degraded himself only to humble his subjects. They 
were, however, once more patient witnesses to that 
ignominious act, — and were so much overawed by 
the Pope, or had brought their design to so little 
maturity, that the king, in spite of it, still found 
means and authority to raise an army, with wliich he 


' •' ' 1 








made a final effort to recover some part of 
his dominions in France. The juncture was 
altogether favorable to his design. Philip had all 
his attention abundantly employed in another quar- 
ter, against the terrible attacks of the Emperor Otho 
in a confederacy with the Earl of Flanders. John, 
strengthened by this diversion, carried on the war in 
Poitou for some time with good appearances. The 
Battle of Bouvines, which was fought this year, put 
an end to all these hopes. In this battle, the Impe- 
rial army, consisting of one hundred and fifty thou- 
sand men, wer^ defeated by a third of their number 
of French forces. The Emperor himself, with diffi- 
culty escaping from the field, survived but a short 
time a battle which entirely broke his strength. So 
signal a success established the grandeur of France 
upon immovable foundations. Philip rose continu- 
ally in reputation and power, whilst John continually 
declined in both; and as the King of Prance was 
now ready to employ against him all his forces, so 
lately victorious, he sued, by the mediation of the 
Pope's legate, for a truce, which was granted to him 
for five years. Such truces stood in the place of 
regular treaties of peace, which were not often made 
at that time. 

The barons of England had made use of the king's 
absence to bring their confederacy to form ; and now, 
seeing him return with so little credit, his allies dis- 
comfited, and no hope of a party among his subjects, 
they appeared in a body before him at Lon- 
don. AH in complete armor, and in the 
guise of defiance, they presented a petition, very hum- 
ble in the language, but excessive in the substance, 
in which they declared their liberties, and prayed that 

A. D. uu. 



thoy might bo formally allowed and established by 
the royal authority. The king resolved not to sub- 
mit to their demands ; but being at present in no 
condition to resist, he required time to consider of so 
important an affair. The time which was granted to 
the king to deliberate he employed in finding means 
to avoid a compliance. He took the cross, by which 
he hoped to render his person sacred ; he obliged the 
people to renew their oath of fealty ; and, lastly, he 
had recourse to the Pope. Fortified by all the de- 
vices which could be used to supply the place of a 
real strength, he ventured, when the barons renewed 
their demands, to give them a positive refusal ; he 
swore by the feet of God (his usual oath) that he 
would never grant them such liberties as must make 
a slave of himself. 

The barons, on this answer, immediately fly to 
arms: they rise in every part; they form an army, 
and appoint a leader ; and as they knew that no de- 
sign can involve all sorts of people or inspire them 
with extraordinary resolution, unless it be animated 
with religion, they call their leader the Marshal of 
the Army of God and Holy Church. The king was 
wholly unprovided against so general a defection. 
The city of London, the possession of which has 
generally proved a decisive advantage in the Eng- 
lish civil wars, was betrayed to the barons. He 
might rather be said to be imprisoned than de- 
feuded in the Tower of London, to which close 
siege was laid; whilst the marshal of the barons' 
army, exercising the prerogatives of royalty, issued 
writs to summon all the lords to join the army of lib- 
erty, threatening equally all those who should adhere 
to the king and those who betrayed an inditferenco to 

U : i 







the cause by their neutrality. John, deserted by all, 
had no resource but in temporizing and submission. 
Without questioning in any part the terms of a trea- 
ty which he intended to observe in none, he agreed 
to everything the barons thought fit to ask, hoping 
that the exorbitancy of their demands would justify 
in the eyes of the world the breach of his promises. 
Tlie instruments by which the barons secured their 
liberties were arawn up in form of charters, and in 
the manner by which grants had been usually made 
to monasteries, with a preamble signifying that it was 
done for the benefit of the king's soul and those of 
his ancestors. For the place of solemnizing this re- 
markable act they chose a large field, overlooked by 
Windsor, called Running-mode, which, in our present 
tongue, signifies the Meadow of Council, — a place 
long consecrated by public opinion, as that wherein 
the quarrels and wars which arose in the English 
nation, when divided into kingdoms or factions, had 
been terminated from the remotest times. Here it 
was that King John, on the 15th day of June, ia the 
year of our Lord 1215, signed those two memorable 
instruments which first disarmed the crown of its un- 
limited prerogatives, and laid the foundation of Eng- 
lish liberty. One was called the Great Charter ; the 
other, the Charter of the Forest. If we look back to 
the state of the nation at that time, we shall the 
better compiv-hend the spirit and necessity of these 

Besides the ecclesiastical jurisprudence, at that 
time, two systems of laws, very different from each 
other in their object, their reason, and their author- 
ity, regulated the interior of the kingdom : the For- 
est Law, and the Common Law. After tlie Northei^' 



nations had settled here, and in other purls of Eu- 
rope, hunting, which had formerly been the chief 
means of their subsistence, still continued their fa- 
vorite diversion. Great tracts of each country, wast- 
ed by the wars in which it was conquered, wer»j set 
apart for this kind of sport, and guarded in a state of 
desolation by strict laws and severe penalties. When 
such waste lands were in the h-nds of subjects, they 
were called Chases ; when in the power of the sov- 
ereign, they were denominated Forests. These forests 
lay properly within the jurisdiction of no hundred, 
county, or bishopric ; and therefore, being out both of 
the Common and the Spiritual Law, they were gov- 
erned by a law of their own, which was such as the 
king by his private will thought proper to impose. 
There were reckoned in Enfi,laud no less than sixty- 
eight loyal forests, some of them of vast extent. In 
these great tracts were many scattered inhabitants ; 
and several persons had property of woodland, and 
other soil, inclosed within their bounds. ?Iere the 
king had separate courts and particular jus ticiaries ; 
a complete jurisprudf.'nce, with all its ceremonies and 
terms of art, was formed : and it appears that these 
laws were better digested and more carefully enforced 
than those which belonged to civil government. They 
had, indeed, <ill the qualities of the worst of laws. 
Their profes&cd object was to keep a great part of the 
nation desolate. They hindered communication and 
destroyed industry. They had a trivial object, and 
most severe sanctions; fox, -s they belonged imme- 
diately to the king's personal pleasures, by the lax 
interpretation of treason in those days, all 'considera- 
ble ofl.nces against the Forest Law, such as killing the 
beasts of game, were considered as high treason, and 



i I 




tl i^ t 

■ »\ ,. 


punished, as high treason then was, by truncation of 
limbs and loss of eyes and testicles. Hence arose a 
thousand abuses, vexatious suits, and pretences for 
imposition upon all those who lived in oi- near these 
places. The deer were suffered to run loose upon 
their lands; and many oppressions were used with 
relation to the claim of commonage which the peo- 
ple had in most of the forests. The Norman kings 
were not the first makers of the Forest Law ; it sub- 
sisted under the Saxon and Danish kings. Canute 
the Great composed a body of those laws, which still 
remains. But under the Norman kings they were 
enforced with greater rigor, as the whole tenor of the 
Norman government was more rigorous. Besides, 
new forests were frequently made, by which private 
property was outraged in a grievous manner. Noth- 
ing, perhaps, shows more clearly how little men are 
able to depart from the common course of affairs than 
that the Norman kings, princes of great capacity, and 
extremely desirous of absolute power, did not think 
of peopling these forests, places under their own un- 
controlled dominion, and which might have served 
as so many garrisons dispersed throughout the coun- 
try. The Charter of the Forests had for its object 
the disafforesting several of those tracts, the pre- 
vention of future afforestings, the mitigation and as- 
certainment of the punishments for breaches of the 
Forest Law. 

The Common Law, as it then prevailed in England, 
was in a great measure composed of some remnants 
of the old Saxon customs, joined to the feudal insti- 
tutions brought in at the Norman Conquest. And it 
is here to be observed, that the constitutions of Mag- 
na Cliarta are by no means a renewal of the Laws 





of St. Edward, or the ancient Saxon laws, as our 
historians and law-writers generally, though very 
groundlessly, assert. They bear no resemblance in 
any particular to the Laws of St. Edward, or to any 
other collection of these ancient institutions. Iiidccu, 
how should they? The object cf Magna Charta is 
the correction of the feudal policy, which was first 
introduced, at least in any regular form, ' . the Con- 
quest, and did not subsist before it. It may be fui^ 
ther observed, that in the preamble to the Great 
Charter it is stipulated that the barons shall hold 
the liberties there granted to them and their heirs, 
from the king and his heirs; wliich sliows that the 
doctrine ot an unalienable tenure was always upper- 
most in their miudb. Their idea even of liberty was 
not (if I may use the expression) perfectly free ; and 
they did not claim to possess their priviletros upon 
any natural principle or independent bottom, but 
just as they held their lands from the king. Tliis 
is worthy of observation. 

By the Feudal Law, all landed property is, uy a 
feigned conclusion, supposed to be derived, and there- 
fore to be mediately or immediately held, from the 
crown. If some estates were so derived, others were 
certainly procured by the same original title of con- 
quest by which the ciown itself was acquired, and the 
derivation from the king could in reason only be con- 
sidered as a fiction of law. But its consequent rights 
being once supposed, many real charges and burdens 
grew from a fiction made only for the preservation of 
subordination ; Lud in consequence of this, a great 
power was exercised over the persons and estates of 
the tenants. The fines on the succession to an estate, 
called in the feudal language reliefs, were not fixed 

<\ ! 
I I 





. I 


to any certainty, and were therefore frequently made 
so excessive that they migiti rather be considered as 
redemptions or new purchases than acknowledgments 
of superiority and tenure. With respect to that mobt 
important article of marriage, there was, in the very 
nature of the feudal holding, a great restraint laid 
upon it. It was of importance to the lord that the 
person who received the feud should be submissive 
to him; he had, therefore, a right to interfere in 
the marriage of the heiress who inherited the feud. 
This right was carried further t'^an tlie necessity re- 
quired: the male heir himself was obliged to marry 
according to the choice of his lord ; and even widows, 
who had made one sacrifice to the feudal tyranny, 
were neither suffered to continue in the widowed state 
nor to choose for themselves the partners of their sec- 
ond bed. In fact, marriage was publicly set up to 
sale. Tlie ancient records of the Exchequer afford 
many instances where some women purchased by 
heavy fines the privilege of a single life, some the 
free choice of an husband, others the liberty of reject- 
ing some person particularly disagreeable. And what 
may appear extraordinary, there are not wanting ex- 
amples where a woman has fined in a considerable 
sum, that she might not be compelled to marry a 
certain man ; the suitor, on the other hand, has out- 
bid her, and solely by offering more for the marriage 
than the heiress could to prevent it, he carried his 
point directly and avowedly against her inclinations. 
Now, as the king claimed no right over his immedi- 
ate tenants that they did not exercise in the same or 
in a more oppressive manner over their vassals, it is 
hard to conceive a more general and cruel grievance 
than this shameful market, which so universally out- 



raged tlie most sacred relations among mankind. 
But the tyranny over women was not over with the 
marriage. As the king seized into his hands the es- 
tate of every deceased tenant in order to soonre his 
relief, the widow was driven often by an heavy com- 
position to purchase the admission to her dower, into 
which it should seem she could not enter without the 
king's consent. 

All these were marks of a real and grievous ser- 
vitude. The Great Charter was made, not to destroy 
the root, but to cut short the overgrown branches 
of the feudal service : first, in moderating and in re- 
ducing to a certainty the reliefs which the king's ton- 
ants paid on succeeding to their estate according to 
tlieir rank ; and, secondly, in taking off some of the 
burdens which had been laid on marriage, whether 
compulsory or restrictive, and thereby preventing that 
shameful market which had been made in the per- 
sons of heirs, and the most sacred things amongst 

There were other provisions made in the Great 
Charter that went deeper than the feudal tenure, 
and affected the whole body of the civil government. 
A great part of the king's revenue then consisted 
in the fines and amercements which were imposed 
in his courts. A fine was paid there for liberty to 
commence or to conclude a suit. The punishment 
of offences by fine was discretionary ; and this dis- 
cretionary power had been very much abused. But 
by Magna Charta things were so ordered, that a de- 
linquent might be punished, but not ruined, by a 
fine or amercement; because the degree of his of- 
fence, and the rank he held, were to be taken into 
consideration. His freehold, his merchandise, and 







h i 

those instrumenta by which he obtained his UtcU- 
hood were made sacred from such impositions. 

A more grand reform was made with regard to 
the administration of justice. The kings in those 
days seldom resided long in one place, and tlieir 
courts followed their persons. This erratic justice 
must have been productive of infinite inconvenience 
to the litigants. It was now provided thait civil 
suits, called Common Plea; should be fixed to some 
certain place. Thus one branch of jurisdiction was 
separated from the king's court, and detached from 
his person. They had not yet come to that ma- 
turity of jurisprudence as to think this might be 
made to extend to criminal law also, and that the 
latter was an object of still greater importance. But 
even the former may be considered as a great revo- 
lution. A tribunal, a creature of mere law, inde- 
pendent of personal power, was established ; and this 
separation of a king's authority from his person was 
a matter of vast consequence towards introducing 
ideas of freedom, and confirming the sacredness and 
majesty of laws. 

But the grand article, and that which cemented 
all the parts of the fabric of liberty, was this,— 
that " no freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or 
disseized, or outlawed, or banished, or in any wise 
destroyed, but by judgment of his peers." 

There is another article of nearly as much conse- 
quence as the former, considering the state of the 
nation at that time, by which it is provided that the 
barons shall grant to their tenants the same liberties 
which they had stipulated for themselves. This pre- 
vented the kingdom from degenerating into the worst 
imaginable government, a feudal aristocracy. The 

\ ' 




English barons woro not in tho condition of those 
groat princes who had raado the French monarchy 
so low in the preceding century, or like those who 
reduced the Imperial power to a name. They had 
been brought to moderate bounds l<y the policy of 
the first and second Henrys, and were not in a con- 
dition to set up for petty sovereigns by an usurpation 
equally detrimental to the crown and the people. 
They were able to act only in confederacy ; and this 
common cause made it necessary to consult the com- 
mon good, and to study popularity by the equity of 
their proceedings. This was a very happy circum- 
stance to the growing liberty. 

Thos« concessions were so just and reasonable, that, 
if we except the force, no prince could think himself 
wronged in making *hem. But to secure the observ- 
ance of these articles, regulations were made, which, 
whilst they were regarded, scarcely left a shadow 
of regal power. And the barons could think of no 
measures for securing their freedom, but such as 
were inconsistent with monarchy. A council of 
twenty-five barons was to be chosen by thoir own 
body, without any concurrence of the king, in order 
to hear and determine upon all complaints concern- 
ing the breach of the charter ; and as these charters 
extended to almost every part of government, a tri- 
bunal of his enemieb was set up who might pass ji"' 
ment on all his actions. And that force might f 
be wanting to execute the judgments of this nb.. 
tribunal, the king agreed to issue his own writs to 
all persons, to oblige them to take an oath of obedi- 
ence to the twenty-five barons, who were empowered 
to distress him by seizure of his lands and castles, 
and by every possible method, until the grievance 



:' f, 


^ i 

complained of was redressed according to their pleas- 
ure : his own person and his family were alone ex- 
empted from yiolence. 

By these last concessions, it must be confessed, ho 
was effectually dethroned, and with all the circum- 
btances of indignity which could be imagined. He 
had refused to govern as a lawful prince, and he 
saw tiiraself deprived of even his legal authority. 
Ho became of no sort of coi equence in his king- 
dom; he was held in universal contempt and de- 
rision ; ho fell into a profound melancholy. It was 
in vain that he had recourse to the Pope, whoso 
power he had found sufficient to reduce, but not 
to support him. The censures of the Holy See, 
which bad been fulminated at his desire, wore little 
regarded by the barons, or even by the clergy, sup- 
ported in this resistance by the firmness of their 
archbishop, wlio acted with great vigor in the cause 
of the barons, and even delivered into their hands 
the fortress of Rochester, one of the most important 
places in the kingdom. After much meditation the 
king at last resolved upon a measure of the most ex- 
treme kind, extorted by shame, revenge, and despair, 
but, considering the disposition of the time, much 
the most effectual that could be chosen. He dis- 
patched emissaries into France, into the Low Coun- 
tries and Germany. *" raise men for his service. He 
had recourse to the same measures to bring his king- 
dom to obedience which his predecessor, William, had 
used to conquer it. He promised to the adventurers 
in his quarrel the lands of the rebellious barons, and 
it is said even empowered his agents to make char- 
ters of the estates of several particulars. The ut- 
most success attended these negotiations in an age 



when Europe abounded with a warlike and poor no- 
bility, with younger brothers, for whom there wat 
no proviBion in regular armies, who seldom entered 
into the Church, and never applied theraselres to 
>mmerce, and when every considerable family wa» 
surrounded by an innumerable multitude of retain- 
ers and dependants, idle, and greedy of war and pil- 
lage. The Crusade had universally diffused a spirit 
of adventure ; and if any adventure had the Pope's 
approbation, it was sure to have a number of fol- 

John waited the eflfect of his measures. He kept 
up no longer the solemn mockery of a court, in 
which a degraded king must always have been the 
lowest object. He retired to the Isle of Wight: his 
only companions were sailors and fishermen, among 
whom ho became extremely popular. Nev-r was he 
more to be dreaded than in this sullen retreat, whilst 
the barons amused themselves by idle jests and vain 
conjectures on uis conduct. Such was the strange 
want of foresight in that barbarous age, and such 
the total neglect of design in their affairs, that the 
barons, when they had got the charter, which was 
weakened oven by the force by which it was obtained 
and the great power which it granted, set no watch 
upon the king, seemed to have no intelligence of 
the great and open machinations which were carry- 
ing on against them, and had made no sort of dis- 
positions for their defence. They spent their time 
in tournaments and bear-baitings, and other diver- 
sions suited to the fierce rusticity of their manners. 
At length the storm broke forth, and found them ut- 
terly unprovided. The Papal excommunication, the 
indignation of their pri xe, and a vast army of law- 




less and bold adventurers were poured down at once 
upon their heads. Such numbers were engaged in 
this enterprise that forty thousand are said to have 
perished at sea. Yet a number still remained suf- 
ficient to compose two great armies, one of which, 
with the enraged king at its head, ravaged without 
mercy the North of England, whilst the other turned 
all the West to a like scene of blood and desolation. 
The memory of Stephen's wars was renewed, with 
every image of horror, misery, and crime. The bar- 
ons, dispersed and trembling in their castles, waited 
wuo should fall the next victim. They had no army 
able to keep the field. The Archbishop, on whom 
they had great reliance, was suspended from his func- 
tions. There was no hope even from submission: 
the king could not fulfil his engagements to his for- 
eign troops at a cheui^er rate than the utter ruin of 
his barons. 

In these circumstances of despair they resolved to 
have recourse to Philip, the ancient enemy of their 
country. Throwing off all allegiance to John, they 
agreed to accept Louis, the son of that monarch, as 
their king. Philip had once more an opportunity of 
bringing the crown of England into his family, and 
he readily embraced it. He immediately 
*■ ■■ ^"^ sent his son into England with seven hun- 
dred ships, and slighted the menaces and excommu- 
nications of the Pope, to attain the same object for 
which he had formerly armed to support and exe- 
cute them. T' affairs of the barons assumed quite 
a new face by reinforcement, and their rise was 
as sudden and striking as their fall. The foreign 
army of King John, without discipline, pay, or order, 
ruined and wasted in the midst of its successes, was 



litUe able to oppose the natural force of the coun- 
try, called forth and recruited by so considerable a 
succor. Besides, the French troops who served un- 
der John, and made a great part of his army, imme- 
diately went over to the enemy, unwilling to serve 
against their sovereign in a cause which now began 
to look desperate. The son of the King of France 
was acknowledged in London, and received the hom- 
age of all ranks of men. John, thus deserted, had 
uo other ally than the Pope, who indeed served him 
to the utmost of his power, but with arms to which 
the circumstances of the time alone can give any 
force. He excommunicated Louis and his adherents ; 
he laid England under an interdict; he threatened 
the King of France himself with the same sentence: 
but PhiUp continued firm, and the interdict had lit- 
tle effect in England. Cardinal Langton by his re- 
markable address, by his interest in the Sacred Col- 
lege and his prudent submissions, had been restored 
to the exercise of his office; but, steady to the cause 
he had first espoused, he made use of the recovery 
of his authority to carry on his old designs against 
the king and the Pope. He celebrated divine ser- 
vice in spite of the interdict, and by his influence 
and example taught others to despise it. Tlie king, 
thus deserted, and now only solicitous for his per- 
sonal safety, rambled, or rather fled, from place to 
place, at the head of a small party. He was in great 
danger in passing a marsh in Norfolk, in which he 
lost the greatest part of his baggage, and bis most 
valuable effects. With difficulty he escaped to the 
monastery of Swineshead, where, violently agitated 
by grief and disappointments, his late fatigue and 
the use of an improper diet threw him into a fever, 



of which he died in a few days at Newark, not with- 
out Buspiciou of poisou, after a reign, or rather a 
struggle to reign, for eighteen years, the most tur- 
bulent and calamitous both to kmg and people of 
any that are recorded in the English history. 

It may not be improper to pause here for a few 
moments, and to consider a little more minutely the 
causes which had produced the grand revolution 
in favor of liberty by which this reign was distm- 
guished, and to draw all the circumstances which 
led to this remarkable event mto a single point of 
view. Since the death of Edward the Confessor only 
two princes succeeded to the crown upon undisput- 
ed titles. William the Conqueror established his by 
force of arms. His successors were obliged to court 
the people by yielding many of the possessions and 
many of the prerogatives of the crown ; but they 
supported a dubious title by a vigorous administra- 
tion, and recovered by their policy, in the course of 
their reign, what the necessity of their affairs obliged 
tiiem to reUnquish for the establishment of their pow- 
er. Thus was the nation kept contmually fluctuat- 
ing between freedom and servitude. But the princi- 
ples of freedom were predominant, though the thing 
itself was not yet fully formed. The continual strug- 
gle of the clergy for the ecclesiastical liberties laid 
open at the same time the natural claims of the peo- 
ple ; and the clergy were obliged to show some re- 
spect for those claims, in order to add strength to 
their own party. The concessions which Henry the 
Second made to the ecclesiastics on the death of 
Becket, which were afterwards confirmed by Richard 
the First, gave a grievous blow to the authority of 
tlie crown ; as thereby an order of so much power 




and iuflueuce tramphed over it iu many essential 
points. Tlie latter of tiiese princes brought it very 
low by the whole tenor of his conduct. Always 
abroad, the royal authority was felt iu its full vigor, 
without being supported by the dignity or softened 
by the graciousuess of the royal presence. Always 
iu war, he considered his dominions only as a re- 
Bource for his armies. The demesnes of the crown 
were squandered. Every office iu the state was madu 
vile by being sold. Excessive grants, followed by 
violent and arbitrary resumptions, tore to pieces the 
whole contexture of the government. The civil tu- 
mults which arose in that king's absence showed 
that the king's lieutenants at least might be dis- 
obeyed with impunity. Then came John to the 
crown. The arbitrary taxes which he imposed very 
early in his reign, which offended even more by the 
improper use made of them than their irregularity, 
irritated the people extremely, and joined with all 
the preceding causes to make his government con- 
temptible. Henry the Second, during his contests 
with the Church, had the address to preserve the 
barons in his interests. Afterwards, when the barons 
had joined in the rebellion of his children, this wise 
prince found means to secure the bishops and eccle- 
siastics. But John drew upon himself at once the 
hatred of all orders of his subjects. His struggle 
with the Pope weakened him; his submission to 
the Pope weakened him yet more. The loss of his 
foreign territories, besides what he lost along with 
them in repu tion, made him entirely dependent 
upon England: .'hercas his predecessors made one 
part of their territories subservient to the preserva- 
tion of their authority in another, where it was en- 




ii I 

V ; 

dangered. Add to all these causes the personal chai- 
acter of the king, in which there was nothing uniform 
or sincere, and which introduced the like unsteadi- 
ness into all his government. He was indolent, yet 
restless, in his disposition ; fond of working by vio- 
lent metho'ls, without any vigor ; boastful, but con- 
tinually betraying his fears; showing on all occa- 
sions sv & desire of peace as hindered him from 
ever enjoying it. Having no spirit of order, he nev- 
er looked forward, — content by any temporary expo, 
dient to extricate himself from a present difficulty. 
Rash, arrogant, perfidious, irreligious, unquiet, he 
made a tolerable head of a party, but a bad king, and 
liad talents fit to disturb another's government, not 
to support his own. 

A most striking contrast presents itself between 
the conduct and fortune of John and his adversary 
Philip. Philip came to the crown when many of the 
provinces of France, by being in the hands of too 
powerful vassals, were in a manner dismembered 
from the kingdom ; the royal authority was very low 
in what remained. He reunited to the crown a coun- 
try as valuable as what belonged to it before ; he re- 
duced his subjects of all orders to a stricter obedi- 
ence than they had given to his predecessors; ho 
withstood the Papal usurpation, and yet used it «8 an 
instrument in his designs: whilst John, who inher- 
ited a great territory and an entire prorogaiive, by his 
vices and weakness gave up his independency to tlio 
Pope, his prerogative to his subjects, and a large part 
of his dominions to the King of France. 

i'# • 

! J 






There is scarce any object of curiosity more rational 
tlian the origin, the progress, and the various revolu- 
tions of human laws. Political and military relations 
are for the greater part accounts of the ambition and 
violence of mankind : this is an history of their justice. 
And surely there cannot be a more pleasing specula- 
tion tl m to trace the advances of men in an attempt 
to imitate the Supreme Ruler in one of the most glo- 
rious of His attributes, and to attend them in the ex- 
ercise of a prerogative which it is wonderful to fin»i 
intrusted to the management of so weak a being, 
such an inquiry we shall, indeed, frequently S3e gr. 
instances of this frailty ; but at the same time wc 
shall behold such noble efforts of wisdom aad equity 
as seem fully to justify the reasonableness of that ex- 
traordinary disposition by which men, in one form or 
other, have been always put under the dominion of 
creatures like themselves. For what can be more 
instructive than to search out the first obscure and 
scanty fountains of that jurisprudence which now wa- 
ters and enriches whole nations with so abundant ai^d 
copious a flood,- observe the firct principles of 

RIGHT springing i olved in sut^crstition and pol- 

luted with violencL, until by length of time and fa- 
vorable circumstances it has worked itself into clear- 
ness : the laws sometimes lost and trodden down in 
the confusion of wars and tumults, and sometimes 
overruled by the hand of power ; then, victorious over 
tyranny, growing stronger, clearer, and more decisive 



by the violence they had suffered ; enriched even by 
those foreign conquests which threatened their entire 
destruction ; softened and mellowed by peace and re- 
ligion ; improved and exalted by commerce, by social 
intercourse, and that great opener of the mind, in- 
genuous science? 

These certainly were great encouragements to the 
study of historical jurisprudeiM^o, particularly of our 
own. Nor was there a want of materials or help for 
such an imdertaking. Yet we have had few attempts 
in that province. Lord Chief Justice Hale's History 
of the Common Law is, I think, the only one, good 
or bad, which we have. But with all the deference 
justly due to so great a name, we may venture to as- 
sert that this performance, though not without merit, 
is wholly unworthy of the high reputation of its au- 
thor. The sources of our English law are not well, 
no. indeed fairly, laid open; the ancient judicial pro- 
ceedings are touched in a very slight and transient 
manner; and the great changes and remarkable rev- 
olutions in the law, together with their causes, down 
to his time, are scarcely mentioned. 

Of this defect I think there were two principal 
causes. The first, a persuasion, hardly to be eradi- 
cated from the minds of our lawyers, that the English 
law has continued very much in the same state from 
an antiquity to which they will allow hardly any sort 
of bounds. The second is, that it was formed and 
grew up among ourselves ; that it is in every respect 
peculiar to this island ; and that, if the Roman or 
any foreign laws attempted to intrude into its compo- 
sition, it has always had vigor enough to shake them 
off, and return to the purity of its primitive constitu- 


















These opinions are flattering to national vanity and 
professional narrowness; and though they involved 
those that supported them in the most glaring contra- 
dictions, and some absurdities even too ridiculous to 
mention, we have always been, and in a great meas- 
ure still are, extremely tenacious of them. If these 
principles are admitted, the history of the law must 
in a great measure be deemed superfluous. For to 
vhat purpose is a history of a law of which it is 
impossible to trace the beginning, and which during 
its continuance has admitted no essential changes ? 
Or why should we search foreign laws or histories for 
explanation or ornament of that which is wholly our 
own, and by which we are effeccually distinguished 
from all other countries? Thus the law has been 
confined and drawn up into a narrow and inglorious 
study, and that which should be the leading science 
in every well-ordered commonwealth remained in all 
the barbarism of 'he rudest times, whilst every other 
advanced by rapid steps to the highest improvement 
both in solidity and elegance; insomuch that the 
study of our jurisprudence presented to liberal and 
well-educated minds, even in the best authors, hardly 
anything but barbarous terms, ill explainod, a coarse, 
but not a plain expression, an indigested method, and 
a species of reasoning the very refuse of the schools, 
which deduced the spirit of the law, not from original 
justice or legal confo- ".(y, but from causes foreign 
to it and altogether whimsical. Young men were 
sent away with an incurable, and, if we regard the 
manner of handling rather than the substance, a very 
well-founded disgust. The famous antiquary, Spel- 
man, though no man was better formed for the most 
laborious pursuits, in the l.ef^inning deserted the study 



■J I- 




' p 

of the law In despair, though he returned to it again 
when a more confirmed ago and a strong desire of 
knowledge enabled him to wrestle with every diffi- 

The opinions which have drawn the law into such 
narrowness, as they are weakly founded, so they arc 
very easily refuted. Witli regard to that species of 
eternity which they attribute to the English law, to 
say nothing of the manifejt contradictions in which 
those involve themselves who praise it for the fre- 
quent improvements it has received, and at the same 
time value it for having remained without any change 
in all the revolutions of government, it is obvious, on 
the very fir?* - of the Saxon laws, that we have 
entirely aU> olc frame of our jurisprudence 

since the Conq 'dly can we find in these old 

collections a sing. which is law at this day ; 

and one may venture to assert, without much hazard, 
that, if there were at present a nation governed by 
the Saxon laws, we should find it difficult to point 
out another so entirely different from everything we 
now see established in England. 

Tliis is a truth which requires less sagacity than 
candor to discover. The spirit of party, which has 
misled us in so many other particulars, has tended 
greatly to perplex us in this matter. For as the ad- 
vocates for prerogative would, by a very absurd con- 
sequence drawn from the Norman Conquest, have 
made all our national rights and liberties to have 
arisen from the grants, and therefore to be revoca- 
ble at the will of the sovereign, so, on the other 
hand, those who maintained the cause of liberty did 
not support it upon more solid principles. They 
would hear of no beginning to any of our privileges, 



ordew, or laws, and, in order to gain thorn a rever- 
ence, would provo that they were a» old as the na- 
tion; and to support that opinion, they put to the 
torture all the ancient monuments. Othorn, pushing 
things further, have offered a still greater violence to 
them. N. Bacon, in order to establish his republi- 
can system, has so distorted all the evidence he has 
produced, concealed so many things of consequence, 
and thrown such false colors upon the whole argu- 
ment, that I know no bwk so likely to m'.4oad tho 
reader in our antiquities, if yet it retains any auiiioi-- 
ity. In reality, that ancient Constitution and those 
Saxon laws make little or notiiing for any of our 
modern parties, and, when fairly laid open, will be 
found to compose such a system as none, I boliovo, 
would think it either practicable or desirable to estab- 
lish. I am sensible that nothing has been a larger 
theme of panegyric with all our writers on politics 
and history than the Anglo-Saxon government ; and 
it is impossible not to conceive an high opinion of its 
laws, if we rather consider what is said of them than 
what they visibly are. These monuments of our pris- 
tine rudeness still subsist; and they stand out of 
themselves indisputable evidence to confute the pop- 
ular declamations of those writers who would per- 
suade us tliat the crude institutions of an unlettered 
people had reached a perfection which the united 
efforts of inquiry, experience, learning, and necessity 
have not been able to attain in many ages. 

But the truth is, the present system of our laws, 
like our language and our learning, is a very mixed 
and heterogeneous mass : in some respects our own ; 
in more borrowed from the p licy of foreign nations, 
and compounded, altered, and variously modified, ao- 







tttlLV': ?r ^ "'^^"'^'^« -'"^'^ the manners, 
tiie religion, and the commerce of the people liave at 
different times imposed. It is our business' in lomo 
jnea^u to follow and point out these ch ^es and 

Sf .'I •' " ""'^ ^« ""'^^^l^^' »ot from any 
ab.ht7 for tlie greatness of such a work, but purely 

to give some short and plain account of ttese m'a t e s 
to the very Ignorant. "i-vteis 

The Law of the Romans seems utterly to have ex- 
pired m this island together with their'empire ^d 
« at too, before the Saxon establishment. Th^ln- 
g o-Saxons came into England as conquerors. Thev 

did not take laws from, but imposed theirs upon the 
people they had vanquished. These customs' of the 
conquenng nation were without question the same 
for the greater part, they had observed before their 
migration from Germany. The best image we have 

and ti fb^ ^''•cumstances of their new settlement, 
and to the change their constitution must have un 
dergone by adopting a kingly government, not i 

powers than their leaders possessed whilst they con- 
tinued ,n Germany. However, we know v r7l tt e 
of what was done in these respects until their con 
version to Christianity, a revolution which made stui 
more essential changes in their mannei. and gove n 

oert, King of Kent, the missionaries, who had intro- 
duced the use of letters, and came from Rom tu 
of the Ideas of the Roman civil establishmenrmuf 
have observed the gross defect arising from a wan 

' ( 



of written and permanent laws. The king,* from 
their report of the Roman method, and in imitation 
of it, first digested the most material customs of tliis 
kingdom into writing, without having adopted any- 
thing from the Roman law, and only adding some 
regulations for the support and encouragement of the 
new religion. These laws still exist, and strongly 
mark the extreme simplicity of manners and pover- 
ty of conception of the legislators. They are writ- 
ten in the English of that time ; and, indeed, all the 
laws of the Anglo-Saxons continued in that language 
down to the Norman Conquest. This was different 
from the method of the other Northern nations, who 
made use only of the Latin language in all their 
codes. And I take the difference to have arisen 
from this. At the time when the Visigoths, the Lom- 
bards, the Franks, and the other Northern nations 
on the continent compiled their laws, the provuicial 
Romans were very numerous amongst them, or, in- 
deed, composed the body of the people. The Latin 
language was yet far from extinguished ; so that, as 
the greatest part of those who could write were Ro- 
mans, they found it difficult to adapt their characters 
to these rough Northern tongues, and therefore chose 
to write in Latin, which, though not the language 
of the legislator, could not be very incommodious, 
as they could never fail of interpreters ; and for this 
reason, not only their laws, but all their ordinary 
transactions, were written in that language. But in 
England, the Roman name and language having en- 
tirely vanished in the seventh century, the mission- 
ary monks were obliged to contend with the diffi- 

• Decreta illi jndiciorum juxta exempla Romanorum cum con- 
silio sapiumiuin coustituit. — Beda, Eccl. Uist. Lib. II. c. 5. 
\0U Vll. 31 




culty, and to adapt foreign characters to the Enghsh 
Cuage; else none but a very few cou d possMy 
h v°e dra^n any advantage from the things ^jey 
meant to record. And to this at was ownig tha 
many, even the ecclesiastical constitutions, and not 
Tfew of the ordinary evidences of the land, were 
written in the language ci the country. 

This example of written 1" ws being gu' n by Etlu^l^ 

bert, it was foUowed by hL . --^^^^^ ^^ 
thaiie. The next legislator amongst the Engli^^^ wa8 
lua King of the West Saxons, a prince famous m 
^'time for his wisdom and his piety His laws 
l,^^ as those of the above-mentioned princes still 
Tubsist. But we must always remember that very 
f^w of these laws contained any new ^eguktioii, but 
;L rather designed to affirm their -«-"^ c— 
and to preserve nnd fix them; and -cording y they 
are all extremely rude and imperfect. We lead oi 
a collection of iL by Offa, King of the Mercians ; 
hut thev have been long since lost. 

The Anglo-Saxon laws, by universal consent o 
all writers owe more to the care -d sagacv^y o 
Alfred than of any of the ancient kings. In t e 

be shown, when we come to treat more minutely of 
the institutions. But it is clear that he raised a 
it were, from the ashes, and put new bfe and vigor 
„to thi whole body of the law almost lost and for- 
gotten in the ravages of the Danish war; so that. 




having revived, and in all likelihood improved, sev- 
eral aucieut national regulations, he has passed for 
their author, with a reputation perhaps more just 
than if he had invented them. In the prologue 
which ho wrote to his own code, he informs us that 
he collected there whatever appeared to him most 
valuable in the laws of Ina and Offa and others of 
his progenitors, omitting what he thought wrong in 
itself or not adapted to the time ; and he seems to 
have done this with no sn " iudgment. 

Tlie princes who succeet -, having by his la- 

bors enjoyed more repose, i. their minds to the 

improvement of the law ; and there are few of them 
who have not left us some collection more or less 

When the Danes had established their empire, they 
showed tliemselves no less solicitous than the Eng- 
lish to collect and enforce the laws : seeuiing desir- 
ous to repair all the injuries they had formerly com- 
mitted against them. The code of Canute the Greut 
is one of the most moderate, equitable, aud full, of 
any of the old collections. There was no material 
cliango, if any at all, made in their general system 
l)y tlie Danish conquest. They were of the original 
country of the Saxons, and could not have diflered 
from them in the groundwork of their policy. It ap- 
pears by the league between Alfred and Guthrum, 
that the Danes took their laws from the English, and 
accepted tliem as a favor. They were more newly 
come out of the Northern barbarisix., aud wanted the 
regulations necessary to a civil society. But under 
Canute the English law received considerable im- 
provement. Many of tlie old English customs, whicli, 
as that monarcli justly observes, were truly odious, 



•were abrogated ; and, indeed, that code is the last 
we have that belongs to the period before the Con- 
quest. That monument called the Laws of Edward 
the Confessor U certainly of a much later date ; and 
what if extraordinary, though the historians aftor the 
Conquest continually speak of the Laws of King Ed- 
ward. ■; does not appear that he ever made a collec- 
tion, or that any such laws existed at that time. It 
appears by the preface to the Laws of St. Edward, 
t.- t these written constitutions were continually fall- 
ing into disuse. Although these laws had undoubt- 
edly their authority, it was, notwithstanding, by tra- 
ditionary customs that Ihe people were for the most 
part governed, which, as they vared somewhat in 
di«^rent provinces, were distinguished accordingly by 
the names of tlie West Saxon, the Mercian, and the 
Danish Law ; but this produced no very remarkable 
inconvenience, as those customs seemed to differ from 
each other, and from the written laws, ratlier in the 
quantity and nature of their pecuniary mulcts than 
in anything essential. 

If we take a review of these ancient constitutions, 
we shall observe that tlieir sanctions are mostly con- 
fined to the following objects. 

1st. The preservation of the peace. This is one 
of the largest titles ; and it shows the ancient Saxons 
to have been a people extremely prone to quarrelling 
and violence. In some cases the law ventures only 
to put this disposition under regulations : * prescrib- 
ing that no man shall fight with another until he has 
first called him to justice in a legal way ; and then 
lays down the terms under which he may proceed to 
hostilities. The other less premeditated quarrels, iu 

• Leg. Alfred. 38, De Pugna. 




meetings for drinking or business, were considered as 
more or less heinous, according to the rank of tlio 
person in wlioso house the dispute happened, or, to 
speak the language of that time, whose peace they 
had violated. 

2d. In proportioning the pecuniary mulcts im- 
posed by tliem for all, even the highest crimes, ac- 
cording to the dignity of the person injured, and to 
the quantity of the offence. For this purpose they 
classed the people with great regularity and exact- 
ness, both in the ecclesiastic and the secular L^cs, 
adjusting with great care the ecclesiastical to the 
secular dignities ; and they not only estimated each 
man's life according to his quality, but they set a 
vtiue upon every limb and member, down even to 
teeth, hair, and nails ; and these are the particulars 
in which their laws are most accurate and best de- 

3d. In settling the rules and ceremonies of their 
oaths, their purgations, and the whole order and pro- 
cess of their superstitious justice : for by these meth- 
ods they seem to have decided all controversies. 

4th. lu regulating the several fraternities of Frank- 
pledges, by which all the people were naturally bound 
to their good behavior to one another and to their 
superiors ; in all which they were excessively strict, 
in order to supply by the severity of this police the 
extreme laxity and imperfection of their laws, and 
tlie weak and precarious aiithority of their kings and 

These, with some regulations for payment of tithes 
and Church dues, and for the discovery and pursuit 
of stealers of cattle, comprise almost all the titles 
deserving notice in the Saxon laws. In those laws 






there are frequently to be observed particular insti- 
tutiou6,wcll aud prudently framed; but there is no 
appearance of a regular, consistent, and stable jun^ 
prudence. However, it is pleasing to observe some- 
thing of equity and distinction gradually insinuatnig 
itself into these unformed materials, and some tran- 
sient flashes of light striking across the glo«°^ J^"^^ 
prepared for the full day that shone out aftervrards. 
The clergy, who kept up a constant communication 
with Rome, and were in effect the Saxon legislators, 
could not avoid gathering some informations from a 
law which never was perfectly extinguished in tlia 
part of the world. Accordingly we find one ot its 
principles had strayed hither so early as the time of 
Edric and Lothaire.* There are two maxims f of 
civil law in their proper terms in the code of Canuto 
the Great, who made and authorized that collection 
after his pilgrimage to Rome ; and at this time it is 
remarkable, we find the institutions of other nations 
imitated. In the .ame collection there is an express 
reference to the laws of the Werini. From hence it 
is plain that the resemblance between the polity ol 
the several Northern nations did not only arise rem 
their common original, but also from their adoptmg, 
i, some cases, the constitutions of those amongst 
them who were most remarkable for their wisdom. 

lu this state the law continued until the Norman 
Conquest. But we see that even before that period 
the English law began to be improved by takmg in 
foreign learning; wo see the canons of several coun- 
cils mixed indiscriminately with the civil constitu- 

• Justum est nt proles matrem sequatar. - Edric and ^^^"^ 
t Negatio potior est affirmatione. Possessio propnor est habenu 
quam deinceps repetenti. — L. Cnut. 



tions ; and, indeed, the greatest part of the reason- 
ing and equity to be found iu them socuis to ba 
derived from that source. 

Hitherto we have observed the progress of the Sax- 
on laws, which, conformably to their manners, were 
rude and simple, — agreeably to their confined situa- 
tion, very narrow, — and though in some degree, yet 
not very considerably, improved by foreign commu- 
nication. However, wo can i)lainly discern its three 
capital sources. First, the ancient traditionary cus- 
toms of the North, which, coming upon this and tlio 
other civilized parts of Europe with the impetuosity 
of a conquest, bore down all the ancient establibl- 
ments, and, by being suited to the genius of the peo- 
ple, formed, as it wore, the great body and main 
stream of the Saxon laws. The second source was 
the canons of the Church. As yet, hidced, they 
were not reduced into system and a regular form of 
jurisprudence ; but they were the law of the clergy, 
and consequently influenced considerably a people 
over whom that order had an almost unbounded 
authority. Tliey corrected, mitigated, and enriched 
those rough Northern institutions; and the clergy 
having once bent the stubborn necks of that people to 
the yoke of religion, they were the more easily su"- 
ceptible of otlier changes introduced under the same 
sanction. These formed the third source, — namely, 
some parts of the Roman civil law, and the customs 
of other German nations. But this source appears 
to have been much the smallest of the three, and was 
vet inconsiderable. 

The Norman Conquest is the great era of our laws. 
At this time the English jurisprudence, which luid 
hitherto continued a poor stream, fed from some few, 




and thoso scanty sources, was all at once, as from a 
mighty flood, replenished with a vast body of foreign 
learning, by which, indeed, it might bo said rather to 
have been increased than much improved: for this 
foreign law, being imposed, not adopted, for a long 
time bore strong appearances of that violence by 
which it had been first introduced. All our monu- 
ments bear a strong evidence to this change. New 
courts of justice, new names and powers of officers, 
in a word, a new tenure of land as well as new pos- 
sessors of it, took place. Even the language of pub- 
lic proceedings was in a great measure changed. 


BXD 0» VOL. VU.